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Health board orders virtual learning for all 7-12 graders in Lucas County starting Dec. 4; sports, extracurriculars can't use buildings

The board says schools can decide to keep students in K-6 grade learning in-person, in a hybrid model or in a virtual setting.

TOLEDO, Ohio — In a Wednesday morning press conference, the Lucas County Regional Board of Health has ordered that all Lucas County 7-12 grade students are to start virtual learning only on Dec. 4, while grades K-6 may learn in person, at the discretion of each school district. The order also states that schools are to close all school buildings from Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. to Jan 11 at 8 a.m.

The order is imposing these requirements due to a higher risk of exposure to coronavirus during the holidays.

However, the board recommends that all schools should not wait until Dec. 4, but close immediately.

The health department says all schools including public, charter and parochial are included in the order.

READ THE ORDER:

The order states that "due to anticipated issues with students in grades K-6 (unless the school configuration is grades K-8 who can follow K-6 orders), schools may remain open but may only open those facilities required to provide in-person education for students in those grades."

The order continues: "Schools have the discretion to allow the education of grades K-6 (or grades K-8 as described above) to be virtual, to continue with a hybrid in-person/virtual schedule, or, as the order allows, to remain open for in-person education...Education for grades 7-12 (or 9-12 depending on school configuration) will be virtual from Dec. 4 until Jan. 11."

Schools may open to hold religious educational classes and ceremonies, and all schools may be open to hold exams. Staff can provide virtual instruction during the exams, and for special needs education requiring in-person instruction.

In regard to sports, all sports and extracurricular activities are prohibited from utilizing any school building interior space for practice or contests during this period.

WATCH | HEALTH BOARD MEETING

Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski says kids learn better when they're in school and acknowledged that keeping younger kids in school is important for their learning. However, board member Dr. Jonathon Ross says he believes there is enough community spread going on that the coronavirus could move into the schools.

"By having the kids in school, especially the middle school and senior high school students, we're just adding fuel to the fire," Ross says.

He also says they have not seen a lot of COVID-19 cases coming out of high school organized sports, but that's not to say that it won't happen "very, very soon."

Toledo mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said before the meeting that he expected the board to shut down all in-person learning and sports for all Lucas County schools by December.

Board members are concerned that not only will the coronavirus spread throughout students, the students will then spread the virus to their family members.

Coronavirus numbers have been on the rise in the state, with most counties, including Lucas County, now on red status.

RELATED: COVID-19 in Ohio: State reports 8,604 new cases in last 24 hours

If a county is red, this means it is on a Level 3 Public Emergency, with very high coronavirus exposure and spread. Residents in red counties are asked to limit activities as much as possible.

Gov. Mike DeWine said yesterday the first batch of coronavirus vaccines should come to Ohio by Dec. 15.

RELATED: Gov. Mike DeWine says first batch of COVID-19 vaccines set to arrive in Ohio by Dec. 15

It has been previously stated that the first rounds of the vaccine will go to healthcare providers and the people most at risk for contracting the virus, including the elderly and those with underlying conditions. 

Federal officials say they hope to distribute 40 million COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2020.