By Travis Volz
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is forcing unprecedented actions to become routine.
Last week, Governor J.D. Pritzker announced the closing of all schools for two weeks in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, school administrators are moving forward without a playbook.
“This isn’t something you can plan for, and right now we’re doing the best we can,” West Washington County Unit District Scott Fuhrhop said. “Our first priority is taking care of kids, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
School was in session in Okawville Monday, and school nurse Melinda Albers and Okawville Junior-Senior High School Principal Keith Senior addressed junior high students prior to the start of school.
“We’re trying to give you information about why social distancing is important,” Albers told the assembled students. “Doctors are working day and night on this, and this is their best advice right now.”
Monday was spent passing as much information as possible to students about efforts to control the spread of the virus among the general population.
“You’re going to hear this information a lot today, but that’s because it’s so important,” Senior said. “We’re trying to make sure everyone knows what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
The full slate of school activities for the next two weeks have been cancelled.
“Right now, we’re planning on picking up the sports season when we get back, but we haven’t heard anything from the IHSA yet,” said athletic director Jon Kraus.
The Okawville Drama Club’s performance of Mamma Mia has been postponed as well. Full details of the rescheduled performance dates will be announced.
Fuhrhop said that administrators are reaching out to families needing assistance to provide lunches during the closure.
“We are still working out the details, but we are going to be sure that kids will have food during this difficult time,” he said.
Thus far, area daycares have been exempt from the order to close, and Immanuel Lutheran Wee Care in Okawville is planning to stay open for as long as possible.
“We’re planning on staying open until they tell us not to,” Taiya Bergmann of Wee Care. “Things might change if there’s a case here, but for now, we’re staying open.”
Similarly, Just Us Kids Child Care Center will remain open unless otherwise directed by the St. Clair County Health Department or other authorities.