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DeWine unveils guidelines for schools reopening

Masks required for faculty, strongly advised for students third grade and up

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled on Thursday guidelines for the opening of Ohio’s schools this fall.

“Working with educators and health officials, we’ve created K-12 school guidelines — backed by science — for schools to follow when developing their reopening plans,” the governor said.

“Schools can adjust their rules to what works best for them for a safe environment and that protects students and staff.”

DeWine said that, while teachers and faculty did well with remote learning during the shutdown, education experts recommend that students need to be physically present in school as much as possible.

“To keep schools open, our guidelines are designed to create the safest environment possible for our students and staff,” he said.

He said the five guidelines are vigilantly assessing students and staff for symptoms, washing and sanitizing hands to prevent spread, thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing schools to prevent spread on shared surfaces, practicing social distancing and implementing a face coverings policy.

DeWine said specifics will be available on the state’s coronavirus website shortly.

Regarding face coverings, the governor said, just as is required with business sector employees, staff in schools will be required to wear face coverings.

“To prevent the spread of the virus, unless it is unsafe or when doing so could significantly interfere with the learning process,” he said.

DeWine said when face coverings aren’t practical, transparent face shields may be considered.

“For example, wearing a face mask could make communication more difficult when teachers are interacting with students with disabilities or students who are learning a foreign language,” he said.

DeWine said it also a strong recommendation students from third grade and up wear masks.

“Remember, we wear masks to protect each other, often because people are sick, but show no symptoms,” he said. “Masks can be especially useful and are strongly recommended at any grade level during periods of increased risk and when physical distancing is difficult.”

The governor said the state has created a planning guide to assist schools with solutions to challenges from reopening.

He acknowledged districts will face unforeseen expenses with these changes and that he will be working with the state’s general assembly to ensure funds from the federal CARES Act are available to schools.

Three educations associations — the Ohio School Boards Association, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, released a statement in response to DeWine’s announcement.

The organizations said they were “pleased” with the release of the guidelines.

“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,” he said. “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.”