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Helping each other

Today will be the last day of school for students in Eastern Ohio for three weeks — unless their school has closed already as a precaution against COVID-19, the coronavirus.

That makes sense from a public health standpoint — but it will result in difficulty for many children and families. Our communities, quick to respond to need in times of disaster, should act decisively to help neighbors now, too.

Two concerns are paramount. One is how children will be cared for if they are not in school. Another is ensuring that the youngsters eat well, in the absence of school breakfasts and lunches.

In addition, the closures will affect students’ educations. Some school districts are turning to online instruction. That will help, but it cannot replace interaction in the classroom. Educators will have to — and will — do the best they can.

School districts can help with the food challenge, perhaps by making available food prepared — very carefully, through ultra-sanitary methods — in school kitchens. Some of it could be delivered by school bus drivers.

Many children walk to school, however, and there are not enough school personnel to deliver food to their homes. That is where fire departments, churches and civic organizations can — and will — step up to help.

Child care is a tougher problem. When younger students are not in school, someone has to take care of them.

That can mean lost pay for people who have to be absent from their workplaces to stay home with the kids — and that can be a financial disaster for many families.

In many cases, day care can be provided by relatives, friends or neighbors. That is not feasible for many parents, however.

Again, churches and civic organizations may be able to help. Realizing that school closures may be lengthy — at least three weeks in Ohio — those in our communities who are able to provide day care should discuss how they can do so.

Area residents have proven ourselves to be determinedly compassionate when our neighbors need us.

That attitude is needed now. We’ll find a way to get through this.

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