By J.D. Davidson
“The Toledo-Lucas County Health board voted Wednesday to shut down schools, sports and all extracurricular activities…”
Health officials from one of Ohio’s largest counties wanted Gov. Mike DeWine to take further steps to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They decided instead to do things themselves.
The Toledo-Lucas County Health board voted Wednesday to shut down schools, sports and all extracurricular activities, joining other small and some large counties and school districts around the state.
The order to close schools for grades 7-12 by Dec. 4 passed with an 8-1 vote. It continues in-person learning for grades K-6. It also prohibits sports or other extracurricular activities such as practices and games at school facilities during the order’s time frame of Dec. 4-Jan. 11.
“It allows those individuals who truly need to be in there while we are getting others out,” Toledo-Lucas County Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski said during the commissions meeting Wednesday morning.
“By the nature of sports and some of these extracurricular activities, the ability of the disease to jump is there,” he added. “These are important to our kids. For some of our kids, they are almost as important as the academics. It would not be as beneficial to us if we would continue with sports the way they are.”
Toledo is home to the state’s fourth-largest school district, ranking behind Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The Toledo City School District serves more than 23,000 students.
“By having kids in school, especially middle school and high school kids, we are adding fuel to the fire,” board member Dr. Jonathan Ross said. “We are about to overwhelm ourselves in our community with this disease.”
Ross wanted to impose restrictions on businesses, as well.
“If it were up to me, I would be closing restaurants in the state. I would be closing bars in the state, unless they had a way to set things up outside,” Ross said. “We are on the verge of overwhelming our health care resources.”
There continues to be a divide, however, throughout the state when it comes to in-person schools and extracurricular activities.
At his traditional news conference Tuesday, DeWine said the state is asking schools that are conducting winter sports to do so without fans until the end of the calendar year. He did not say the state is ordering or encouraging schools to end sports.
“Let me talk for a moment about sports,” DeWine said. “Some schools have suspended winter sports until January. For those that have not suspended sports, we would ask you, when you conduct winter sports – basketball games, whatever – to do so without fans. This is another opportunity for us just to pull back.”
The Ohio High School Athletic Association immediately tweeted the suggestion applied to fans, but not to parents of student-athletes.
Many districts around the state, especially those in larger cities or suburbs, have either postponed winter sports completely or delayed them. Those in more rural communities, however, are moving ahead with a traditional season, as the OHSAA has recommended.
The decisions fall on local districts, or in most cases, local health departments.
“We have to realize the federal and state government has left it to us as to what we do with schools,” Ross said. “They have been basically left to the counties to make decisions on schools. The schools have been doing everything they can to make the schools safe, but it’s outside the schools that it’s not safe.”
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.