The Governor of Ohio began his Thursday COVID-19 briefing with a look ahead — specifically, at the 2020-2021 school year that grows closer each day.
DeWine took the opportunity to unveil newly released guidance for school districts as they make plans for the new school year, laying out both requirements and what DeWine referred to as “strong recommendations.”. The State of Ohio also issued the new “Reset and Restart Education Planning Guide for Ohio Schools and Districts”to provide additional guidance (can be accessed below).
The guidance came about after a prolonged discussion with teachers, superintendents, other educators, and medical experts, the Governor emphasized, noting that it is based on three principles:
First, that there is an obligation both to educate children and to keep them safe.
Second, that local control of schools works best. The State of Ohio has obligations, he said, but the primary responsibility for education lies with parents and boards of education. As a result, the new Guide has built-in flexibility for districts to adapt guidelines to match what works in a given community.
Third, that “There is a strong consensus…that our kids need to get back into the school building.” DeWine shared that the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that children need to be in an in-person, school setting as much as possible, not only for educational reasons, but for physical and social development as well.
The guidance has five overall areas of emphasis:
- Schools must vigilantly assess for symptoms. This includes health checks for high temperatures and other symptoms. If any are present, children must be sent home and, in certain circumstances, sent ot health care providers and/or the local health department should be notified. Each school district must work with their local health department to crate a “testing strategy.”
- Everyone must wash and sanitize hands
- A thoroughly cleaned and sanitized school environment
- Social distancing must be observed for students, staff, and volunteers to the greatest extent possible. Some districts may choose to have staggered lunches or modified schedules to help accommodate this goal.
- Schools must implement a face covering policy. All staff are required to wear face coverings unless unsafe or they interfere with the learning process, in which case face shields may be substituted. As for students, it is strongly recommended that all students age third grade and older wear face masks. Schools would work to reduce any social stigma that comes if a given child cannot or should not wear a mask.
Realizing that districts will be beset with additional costs to make these accommodations, DeWine stated that he will work with the General Assembly to make financial assistance available, in part with federal CARES Act dollars.
The actual Guide was not available on Thursday afternoon because of a state website hack, but has since been issued and can be found below. Click and scroll down to read.