Mike DeWine

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (Richland Source file photo)

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered the state's schools to close for at least three weeks following the end of the school day on Monday, due to continuing concerns about coronavirus.

"It's every school in the state," the governor said.

DeWine made the announcement Thursday afternoon. Richland Source is attempting to contact local school superintendents for reaction. 

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"Frankly, I have no idea if it will extend beyond that point," DeWine said. "We all have to have the attitude this is a crisis and we have to get the job done.

"We're going to do the best we can. We knew this day would come. We're there," the governor said.

DeWine asked what message he has for parents who will be scrambling to find daycare for their children when the schools close.

"The message is we understand as much as we can. We have compassion for that. But we have a responsibility to save lives. This is the time to do it," the governor said.

This order includes all public, community, and private K-12 schools in the state, but does not apply to Ohio’s childcare system such as daycare centers and home-based childcare providers.

During this extended period of closure, schools should work to provide education through alternative means and school district leadership may make decisions on whether to use their school buildings. Staff members should continue to report to school as directed by administrators.

"We want to thank educators and administrators for the extraordinary efforts they will take to continue offering services during this time of national crisis,"  DeWine said.

Over the next 72 hours, the Ohio Department of Education will develop guidance for K-12 schools to ensure the continuity of important student services, including a strategy for providing meals.

Later Thursday afternoon, Paolo DeMaria, state superintendent of public instruction, issued the following statement:

"Governor DeWine has taken an extraordinary step today to protect the health and safety of Ohio’s residents, students and educators. We appreciate the cooperation we’ve received from schools across the state during this time and their focused activity to be ready for this reality.

"We anticipate continued cooperation as we transition to this period of suspended in-person activity as seamlessly as possible. We are especially grateful to schools that have proactively developed plans to keep learning going even if school buildings aren’t open. There is a lot of momentum in Ohio’s schools right now and we would hate to see that momentum stalled, although we understand that today’s announcement does mean there will be disruptions.

"We want to thank students, staff, families and caregivers who will need to exercise a great deal of flexibility in the coming weeks. We know this action causes disruption to established routines and expectations, but it was a necessary step to slow the spread of the outbreak.

"We understand there are many questions. This is uncharted territory that we all are navigating together. We are working to provide answers but rest assured that we are committed to working with Governor DeWine, the legislature and other stakeholders to provide as much flexibility and latitude as necessary to accommodate these circumstances. Thank you for your patience."