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OC Schools Board Member, Family Home Safe After Trip to India

The Koegler family of Wheeling gathers for a meal at a restaurant in India. Pictured from left, clockwise are William, Cora, Campbell, Sarah and Jason Koegler.

WHEELING — The Koegler family of Wheeling arrived safely in the United States on Sunday after catching the last flight out of India the night before.

They are back home in Woodsdale, but living under a self-imposed 14-day quarantine.

“It was a lot easier than we thought would be once we got into to the U.S.” said Sarah Koegler, a member of the Ohio County Board of Education. “The Newark (Liberty International) airport was doing no screening at all, which we were really surprised by. When we were in India, we were checked and screened everywhere we went. At every hotel, at every restaurant you had to be cleared for fever and symptoms before you came in.”

Because there were no international flights, the family more easily got through customs, according to Koegler. They drove home from New Jersey overnight and were home on Monday.

She said family members are doing well. In India, there was a doctor at each hotel who examined each guest as they came in to the building. They checked passports to see if the guest had been in any other countries, and took their temperatures.

“The most exposure we would have gotten is at the airport, and on the way home,” she said. “We weren’t anywhere in India where there was a significant outbreak. There were very few cases at any places we were. And also, they were being so cautious. Maybe more so than I’ve seen so far at home.”

Koegler works with Teach for America, an organization that recruits leaders to teach in underpriviledged schools.

She was eligible for a sabbatical, and seized upon an opportunity to go advise managers in India who train teachers. She had also hoped to explore India while in the country.

Koegler left for Mumbai, India in late February. On March 11, she was joined by her husband Jason, vice president of institutional advancement at West Liberty University; sons, Campbell, 14, and William, 12; and daughter, Cora, 4.

Koegler said the first three weeks of the trip she and later her family remained in Mumbai, but moved on to Rajasthan in Northwest India with plans to explore that area.

The Koeglers had planned to stay six weeks in India, but it became evident at the beginning of last week it would be prudent to return to America, she said. The family could not get a flight out until 10:45 p.m. on Saturday, and all flights were canceled beginning at midnight.

“We really did get the last flight out of India,” she said. They flew out from New Dehli.

Koegler said while coronavirus numbers aren’t as intense in India as they are in Italy or China, it may just be because that country is in its early stages.

“India is so poor, and has so many people with such an irregular access to healthcare,” she said. “They have probably had more than 300 cases reported, but they do not have the reporting structure that is in other countries.

“If more is coming there they could be on a later wave.”

Koegler said she had always wanted to take her children to another country to experience a different kind of life.

In preparation, sons Campbell and William raised $1,200 through a GoFundMe page to donate to a school in Mumbai. Daughter Cora’s pre-school, the Holy Child Care Center, also contributed art supplies for the family to take with them for a school. The donations were left at a school in Mumbai, though the schools were closed, Koegler said.

She definitely would like to return to the country.

“I didn’t get to see the Taj Mahal, or visit schools like I wanted to do,” she said. “I would like to go back when it is safer for everybody there.”

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