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Lucas Co. Board of Health president recommends schools start virtually; board expected to discuss further on Thursday

Last week, board did not vote on any sort of recommendation or resolution about starting virtually, but could do so at Thursday's meeting.

TOLEDO, Ohio — On July 30, Lucas County Board of Health President Dr. Johnathon Ross recommended that schools begin the year virtually and that fall sports should be delayed until the spread of the virus is under control.

On Thursday, the health department will have a special meeting at 2:30 p.m., during which they're expected to discuss further the issues of schools and start plans, which could lead to some changes for districts that have already mapped out their starts. 

Many districts have already released their plans to begin classes, as the school year is set to begin for most in the next few weeks. Almost all of them incorporate some form of in-person learning.

This could change for districts, depending on what's decided Thursday by the health department, and some districts are sending out early notices to prepare parents for possible changes. 

Communications from the Ottawa Hills district to parents noted that the board of health members and the commissioner "are expected to discuss and possibly recommend a remote-only start for all Lucas County school districts." 

"...It is important for me to let you know that if they do issue such a recommendation, Ottawa Hills Local Schools will honor it to start our school year - even though the primary goal of our approved start-up plan is to have students attend classes in person," the letter from Superintendent Dr. Adam Fineske read. 

The Ottawa Hills board of education will meet after the health department meets to discuss both the district's fall start-up plan and school levy requests for the Nov. 3 ballot. 

Health board President Ross claimed last week that the landscape is different than when back-to-school conversations first started.

A graphic shown at the July 30 meeting described the "situation at the time of initial planning" as:

  • Lower COVID-19 positives
  • Recommendation to have in-school classes
  • Testing was efficient
  • Lower community spread

That same graphic then described the county's current situation as:

  • High COVID-19 positives
  • Testing system with multiple issues
  • Level 3 (red) designated county
  • Community spread

However, the board did not vote on any sort of recommendation or resolution during that meeting.

The Lucas County Regional Board of Health discussed the county’s current COVID-19 situation regarding schools reopening. Caylee Kirby - WTOL 11 explains what happened during this meeting.

Posted by WTOL NEWS 11 on Thursday, July 30, 2020

The July 30 comments came not long after a similar statement was released by the Ohio Education Associate (OEA).

OEA representatives stated that any school or campus building located in a county designated by the state's COVID-19 warning system as Level 4 (purple) or Level 3 (red) should remain closed to in-person instruction. 

As of Aug. 5, Lucas County was still at Level 3 (red). This map is usually updated during Thursday news conferences by Gov. Mike DeWine, but this week, President Donald Trump's visit to Clyde is pre-empting the news conference. DeWine instead will hold his news conference on Friday. It was unclear if the map would be released on Thursday as per usual. 

OEA leaders also said that until a vaccine or cure for COVID-19 is widely available, schools in all counties, including Level 2 (orange) and Level 1 (yellow) should be permitted to open for in-person instruction only if all CDC requirements can be fully met.