COLUMBUS, Ohio — During a press conference Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the plan for K-12 schools across Ohio to reopen after closing them in March due to COVID-19 concerns.
Guidelines for the reopening of K-12 schools in Ohio include:
Vigilantly assessing symptoms - Students, caregivers and staff are asked to monitor their health before departing for school. Those with temperatures over 100 degrees are asked to stay home. Students and staff who develop symptoms at school will be sent home. Schools will need to work with their local health departments to trace cases and conduct testing.
Hand washing - Schools must provide time for students and staff to regularly wash hands. Hand washing and sanitation stations are to be set up around each school, DeWine said.
Sanitation and deep cleaning schools - Schools will be required to regularly disinfect the school and high touch areas to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Practicing social distancing - Schools should strive to maintain 6-feet of distance between students and staff in classrooms, lunchrooms, school busses, and other school settings when possible to limit exposure to COVID-19. DeWine said that some schools may stagger lunch and class schedules
Face coverings - Every school must develop a face-covering policy. Staff, like other business sectors that have reopened in the state, will be required to wear a mask or face covering. When face coverings are not practical, staff may opt to use face shields.
The state also strongly recommends, but is not mandating, that children in third grade or higher should wear a mask. DeWine said that schools should do everything they can to reduce the stigma for those students who are unable to wear a mask. Some schools may suggest younger students also wear masks, DeWine said.
Each school is asked to follow the guidelines while creating their own reopening plans, DeWine said.
The governor said he is working to provide funding for schools to obtain items they need to purchase items needed to follow guidelines, such as disinfectants, sanitizers, and personal protective equipment.
DeWine and his team worked with teachers, school staff, and medical workers experts to come up with the guidelines to reopen while keeping children across Ohio safe and providing them with a good education.
The Ohio Department of Education has two documents, one focusing on education and the other focusing on health, to provide resources when planning the reopening.
Scott DiMauro, President of the Ohio Education Association, told News 5 he was pleased there is finally a statewide plan, but he said he was hoping it would contain additional state mandates for social distancing, health checks and require students in third grade and up to wear masks.
“We’re a little disappointed that there aren’t more mandates in terms of what the state is requiring,” DiMauro said.
“The fact that local school officials still have discretion in terms of which requirements to follow and which ones don’t, other than the mask requirement, is a disappointment.”
“Students third grade and above ought to be expected to wear masks, let’s not have that as a suggestion, let’s have that as a requirement so that we’re not leaving that up to local politics.”
Dr. Claudia Hoyen, Director of Infection Control at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, told News 5 parents should attempt to get their children comfortable with wearing a mask weeks before the start of the school year, and keep a close watch for COVID-19 symptoms.
“At Rainbow, we have been engaging with lots of our local school,” Hoyen said.
“We actually ask any child over two to mask and I can tell you they will do it.”
“This is really one of the social norms that our kids need to get used to.”
“Kids will do what they’re used to, what they understand and what they see others around them doing."
“Please if your child has a fever or any of the symptoms, keep them home.”
In April, DeWine and his team made the decision that students across Ohio would not attend school in person and will continue remote learning for the remainder of the school year.
Governor DeWine's entire school reopening plan can be found here.