Whitehall City Schools will close after class Friday, March 13, and remain closed through April 3, the district announced March 12 -- adding an extra day to the closure ordered that afternoon by Gov. Mike DeWine.

District Superintendent Brian Hamler outlined the three-week closure and the additional steps the district will take, in line with those recommended or mandated by DeWine, during the district’s school board meeting March 12.

“We are closing schools at the end of the day today and plan to find a balance between meeting students’ educational and nutritional needs and the need for social distancing,” Hamler said Friday, March 13.

“Communication is going to be extremely important and we are directing our families to go to our webpage for up-to-date and trusted information.”

That website is whitehallcityschools.org.

The closure follows DeWine's orders to close all Ohio schools until April 3, though the governor asked that schools shut down after the end of classes Monday, March 16.

Staff will not report to school buildings, said Ty Debevoise, director of marketing and communications for Whitehall schools.

While many school districts had a one-week spring break already scheduled during the shutdown period, Whitehall’s spring break is not until April 13-17, and it remains to be seen whether students will remain off that week, Debevoise said.

“It’s unclear; we just don’t know yet," he said.

Debevoise said the district will wait for further direction concerning whether districts will be required to make up the days before deciding if the district’s scheduled spring break will be affected.

Chris Hardy, director of accountability and instruction for Whitehall schools, said the district plans to offer content and assignments to students via online learning beginning Wednesday, March 18.

In a letter sent to Whitehall school district families March 13, students in grades 2-12 are asked to practice logging into their online environment to ensure each student is able to access digital learning resources.

“Students in K-1 will have a variety of lessons they will bring home with them,” Hardy said.

Staff will spend March 16 and 17 preparing online and alternative lessons for students, who will begin alternative and remote learning March 18, Hardy said.

“The goal of our alternative and remote learning plan is to provide learning opportunities for each grade level and course and to keep learning moving forward.”

The district’s expectation of student instructional time for grades 9-12 is 120 minutes a day; for grades K-8, it is 100 minutes a day, Hardy said.

 Mike Adkins, school board president, said March 13 the district is taking the right steps.

“This is a scary situation and whatever we can do to help is what we’re going to do for the safety of our staff and children," he said. 

"There is no overreacting on something like this, but as a district, we are doing whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of our children and staff.”