COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio schools should do what they can to welcome students back to classrooms this fall, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday.
The governor today revealed the state's guidelines for getting back to school, which were compiled in consultation with numerous educators and health experts. The measures are based on "the best scientific evidence we have," although individual districts will have some leeway to implement "what works best for them."
DeWine ordered all Ohio schools closed back in March at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. While he lauded teachers for doing what they can with distance learning, he agreed with the American Academy of Pediatrics that the risks of keeping kids at home outweigh the risks of bringing them back, even with COVID-19 still a threat.
"We have an obligation, all of us, to educate our children and to keep them safe," DeWine said, adding that the layout of schools still makes them a prime spot for spreading the disease. "There's a general consensus that kids need to get back into the school building."
DeWine announced the following five guidelines schools must follow in order to reopen:
- Daily health & temperature checks: Anyone with temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit or COVID-19 symptoms must stay home or be sent home and be referred for testing; positive cases must be made public (identities won't be revealed)
- Personal Hygine: Hand sanitizer must be made readily available and students and teachers must be given ample opportunities to wash their hands
- Cleaning: School buildings and surfaces must be sanitized regularly
- Social distancing: Schools must enforce six-foot distancing between students and teachers "whenever possible"
- Face coverings: All school employees must wear face masks unless it is "unsafe" for them to do so, and it is recommended all students in third grade and above wear masks as well; districts must put forth a face mask policy
"Follow the science, use common sense," DeWine said in regards to the last measure, which has become a highly politicized issue. "We wear face masks to protect each other."
The guidelines in full detail will be released for all to view later today. In the meantime, three state education groups released the following joint statement on DeWine's plan:
"Our organizations — the Ohio School Boards Association, Buckeye Association of School Administrators and Ohio Association of School Business Officials — are pleased to see Gov. Mike DeWine’s release of guidance for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year. We appreciate the thoughtful manner used to provide a framework that allows for local flexibility for school districts, coupled with reasonable approaches to health and safety considerations.
"We are particularly supportive of the broad flexibility and local control afforded to school district leaders through the school reopening guidance. This will allow for each district to make decisions that best suit its students, staff and community. There is a range of differences in how the coronavirus pandemic has affected communities and school districts; the solution to the various challenges school districts are facing cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. The governor’s guidance for schools recognizes this fact.
"Our organizations were fortunate enough to work with the DeWine administration and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria throughout the guidance development process over the past several weeks. DeWine and DeMaria also sought input from members of our three groups: the school board members, superintendents and school business officials who have been working hard in public school districts across the state.
"We will continue to work with our members as they partner with state and local health officials to ensure the health and safety of students and school staff."
Click here for our coronavirus section