District Announces Cancellations In Response to COVID-19

Larger group events and activities are disallowed March 11-21


Mae Nagusky

Board of Education members discuss COVID-19 during a March 10 board meeting in the small auditorium.

In response to the arrival of COVID-19 in Cuyahoga County, the district announced today cancellations and modifications of student activities ranging from the spring Theater Department production to field trips and assemblies.

In an email sent to faculty and staff at 5:33 p.m., Dr. David Glasner, superintendent, stated that the district, acting “out of an abundance of caution,” was “canceling all school-sponsored, after-school, large-group events and daytime school assemblies” beginning tomorrow through March 21. The message listed the cancellation of specific activities, including the high school’s March 19-21 production of “Rent.” 

Glasner stated that the district is receiving guidance from the Ohio Department of Education, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the city and other national, state and local agencies. High school nurse Paula Damn and Director of Pupil Services Elizabeth Kimmel also participated in the decision-making process. 

“Those people participate in a daily task force that meets so everybody is putting their heads together every day on it,” Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations Scott Stephens said. 

According to the announcement, indoor sport events are not canceled, but, in keeping with a decision by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, spectators for the men’s basketball regional semifinal game against Canton McKinley at Cleveland State University will be limited to immediate family members of participating athletes and essential staff. 

“I wouldn’t say I was mad, but I was definitely not happy about it,” senior basketball player Eric Mudd said. “You know, we’re playing in the Wolstein Center, and it holds 5,000 people, and we can only bring four people for each teammate for each team. So we’ll probably have somewhere close to 200 people — and no support from our students.” 

However, athletic practices and after-school conferences will go on. At tonight’s Board of Education meeting, Glasner said those activities would continue because they are a part of the typical school day. “Those are essentially analogous to students being in class, and right now, we’re still running class, and so those kinds of activities and events will still go on for the time being,” he said.

Gabe Griswold, a senior appearing in “Rent,” said that he understands where the administration is coming from but that he is still hurt. “We’ve worked for multiple months, sold tickets, rehearsed, done all kinds of work — and to cancel our production without speaking to us first is just a gut punch,” he said. 

Junior Sara Dina, who also appears in the musical, questioned the decision. “I feel like if they are this concerned to cancel extracurricular activities, why not just cancel school? I feel like us performing our show puts us at less risk than going to school every day and being squished around in the hallways and cafeteria with thousands of students,” she said. “I genuinely understand the concern. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance, especially for us juniors and seniors as we are thinking about our college plans.”

“We will make every effort to reschedule canceled events or to record any canceled performances,” Glasner stated in the email sent to faculty. 

The SHHS Tedx event, set for March 14, is postponed as well.

Senior Lia Snyder, who helped organize the speaking event and is an International Baccalaureate Diploma student, said that rescheduling it will be hard. “One problem, though, is one of the dates that we chose for the event was very carefully chosen given the district’s schedule that we had that was already very packed,” she said.  

Snyder said she understands there are many reasons that the schools are remaining open, but she does not think it makes sense to cancel some events because of their size. “There is a million reasons why, but at the same time, I don’t think that they can justify closing the school play and TEDx and sports games and all of these other events, claiming that it’s too many people in a confined place, when you can just look at the cafeteria during sixth period lunch or the halls and see that there are many more people in a concentrated space,” she said.

Junior Zach Lehner criticized the focus of the cancellations. “It’s probably the most idiotic thing that I’ve heard — to literally close after-school programs, but let school sports programs still practice and let the games still go on. And school is still going on, where you interact with hundreds of kids every day,” he said. “If you’re going to cancel the after-school things, you have to cancel all of it.”

Lehner said he was extremely disappointed when he learned TEDx was among the canceled events because he had an emotional talk that he was ready to share. “When I saw it, I was ready to punch a wall. I was so disappointed,” he said. “So many of these speakers had a great story to tell, and now they just don’t have a platform to do it.”

Glasner stated, “We do not make these decisions lightly. . . we are doing so in order to prioritize staff, student and community health and safety.”

The district has not made any cancellation announcements concerning school-sponsored international trips set to begin next week.

A full list of cancellations is available here.

The Shakerite will continue to cover this story as it develops. Shakerite Staff contributed reporting.

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