A worldwide health crisis unlike any that’s been seen for generations will keep Warren County schools closed for the rest of the year.
Director of Schools Bobby Cox made the announcement Wednesday afternoon, following the recommendation of Gov. Bill Lee.
The decision means Friday, March 13, will go down as Warren County’s last official school day of the 2019-20 school year.
“It’s definitely disheartening,” said Cox. “I know there are a lot of disappointed students, especially our seniors. This is not how they wanted to end their high school careers. We’ll now turn to how we finish out the year. We’ll also be planning for things like a graduation ceremony and prom. We’re tentatively looking at the first part of June.”
Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Robert Redfield warned Wednesday morning that Americans should brace for another round of COVID-19 infections this winter, saying the virus is likely to follow a seasonality pattern like the flu.
Also on Wednesday, Harvard researchers announced social distancing will likely be required through 2022 to prevent the virus from overloading hospitals and our healthcare system.
The warnings present the question of what our schools will look like going forward if social distancing guidelines become a way of life.
Will sports programs be able to continue? Will face coverings be a requirement? Do class sizes need to be reduced? Is it safe to cram students onto a school bus? What about the school cafeteria?
California Gov. Gavin Newsom openly discussed a few possible scenarios this week, saying the country needs to get its children back to school but in a safe environment.
Gov. Newsom said education officials need to ensure that “kids aren’t going to school, getting infected and then infecting grandma and grandpa.”
Newsom said items on the table include a staggered start time with some students arriving in the morning and the rest in the afternoon. He said officials will be rethinking gym class, recess, school assemblies and all scenarios where students gather in large groups.
Robert Hull is president and chief executive of the National Association of State Boards of Education. He said school systems need to be developing not just a Plan A and Plan B, but also a Plan C and Plan D.
Hull also said schools must re-evaluate everything from the way they clean to the way food is prepared. Screening students one by one as they enter school for the day should also be a consideration.
There’s also the possibility of alternating classroom learning with virtual learning. One example is dividing a class of 20 into two groups of 10. One group would work in the classroom one week while the other stays at home for online instruction. The groups would switch the following week.
As for finishing up this school year in Warren County, Cox said online instruction will continue. He said if the governor’s stay-at-home order is relaxed in May, educational packets can be distributed to students who don’t have internet access at home.
Food distribution will continue Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at nine sites and through 10 bus routes.