NORDONIA SCHOOLS — In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the school district is suspending many activities, including the annual Nordonia Hills Community Expo at Nordonia High School on Saturday and the high school spring musical in late March.

"The safety and well-being of our students remains our top priority," Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark wrote in an email sent to school community members Thursday. "Thank you for your patience as we continue to make decisions, change protocols and revise plans in the best interest of our students, staff, and families.

"Ohio health officials announced yesterday one person is isolated at Mercy Medical Center in Stark County after testing positive for coronavirus. It is the first case of ‘community spread’ and brings the total cases in Ohio to four.

"In response, Governor [Mike] DeWine asked Ohio superintendents to do our part in reducing community spread by eliminating large group events, activities that bring the community into our buildings, and activities that send our students out into the community."

In the letter, Clark said that "effective immediately," no school facilities will be open for community use, including school groups, or for any large-scale student events, such as dances, or events involving spectators on evenings and weekends; the schools will "greatly limit" visitors to the schools to only those necessary for student instruction; and field trips are canceled or postponed.

Postponed events include:

• The high school winter sports awards March 18;

• Rushwood Family Engagement Night for first grade March 19;

• Family Literacy Night at Lee Eaton March 20; 

• The Rushwood Family Dance March 27; and

• The high school spring musical, "Seussical," March 27 through 29.

Student-only extracurricular activities, such as athletic practices, rehearsals and club meetings, will be allowed for the time being.

"These guidelines are effective immediately and will be in place for the foreseeable future, at least through spring break, while school is open," wrote Clark, adding that questions about specific events should be addressed to building principals.

There are several PTA events scheduled the district has not postponed or canceled, Clark added.

"The PTA events that are off-site are not mandatorily canceled because they are not technically school events and they are off-site," Clark said. "We are prohibiting staff from participating, though, and have encouraged PTAs to cancel per the governor's request."

Clark also said all activities will be canceled if the schools close.

"While we know this decision will disappoint many students and families, we agree that we must take aggressive steps to limit the community spread of the coronavirus," wrote Clark.

According to an email the Nordonia Hills Chamber of Commerce sent to Chamber members on Wednesday, the expo is postponed until fall.

"Over the last several days we’ve talked with local health officials, educators and leaders in the business community," states the email. "Many of our companies have already taken action or are considering policies to limit travel, meetings and non-essential gatherings – especially of more than 20-100 people. During those conversations, it has been made clear that these guidelines will result in many of our planned attendees being prohibited or discouraged from attending."

The email states that sponsorships and vendor registrations paid for the expo will be honored in the fall.

"We have determined that bringing together more than 3000 area residents and business leaders, at this time, is not prudent," the email states. "While the risk of exposing people to the virus is of concern, we also believe that an empty room is also not the best use of the resources provided by our members and the sponsors and supporters of our Expo 2020."

In an email sent to the media on Thursday, Chris Simmons, Nordonia High School drama club director, announced that in light of the new policies, the club’s planned performances of "Seussical" on March 27 to 29 have also been postponed. Simmons said that online ticket registrations have been suspended and those who have reserved tickets will be informed of new dates when they are scheduled.

"We will be sure to update everyone with information as we receive it," wrote Simmons "Thank you so much for all you do for Nordonia Drama. We are in unprecedented territory but we will get through it."

Clark said that at least until spring break, school nurses and signs will be reminding students about healthy practices, including properly washing hands, covering coughs and not touching the areas of their eyes, nose and mouth.

"In addition to teaching the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs, we are implementing Akron Children’s Hospital protocols in our school clinics," wrote Clark. "First and foremost, we need sick children to stay home. Children should be fever free without the use of Tylenol or Advil for 24-hours."

In addition, students should not share eating utensils or water bottles, and the schools should be alerted if any family members have a fever, cough and shortness of breath and have traveled internationally in the past month.

"Our nursing staff will contact you," wrote Clark. "If your child is seen in a school clinic and has a fever and signs of respiratory illness, you will be called immediately. Under the new protocols, we must wait with your child in a designated space. The school health staff will provide additional information about contacting your primary care physician and instructions about what may be needed for your child to return to school."

Clark said DeWine has recommended that schools not close at this time, but is requesting that districts "prepare for the possibility of extended school closure."

"As we continue to plan, prepare, and respond to issues surrounding COVID-19, we know that there are some difficult and uncomfortable decisions ahead for our students and staff," wrote Clark. "We are monitoring information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Department of Education, Summit County Public Health, and Akron Children’s Hospital (our school health provider) as we move through this process."

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, or @JeffSaunders_RP.