Although the Glandorf Elementary school building sits quietly now, in less than two months school officials are hoping to welcome students back into the building. Last Thursday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine outlined his plans for schools across the state to open in August with students in the building. (Sentinel photo)
Although the Glandorf Elementary school building sits quietly now, in less than two months school officials are hoping to welcome students back into the building. Last Thursday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine outlined his plans for schools across the state to open in August with students in the building. (Sentinel photo)

COLUMBUS — The primary education world gave a collective sigh last week after learning there would be in-class education for the 2020-21 school year. Governor Mike DeWine on Thursday announced new guidance for resuming school in the fall.

“We know that each school system, and perhaps each school building, will likely look different in the fall. We also know that Ohio has a long history of local control and that school administrators and teachers know their schools best,” said Governor DeWine. “Working together and consulting with educators and other health officials, we have developed a set of guidelines, backed by science, that each school should follow when developing their reopening plans.”

The newly issued guidance report advises schools to vigilantly assess symptoms, wash and sanitize hands to prevent spread, thoroughly clean and sanitize the school environment to limit spread on shared surfaces, practice social distancing, and implement a face coverings policy.

“Just as we have done in the business sector with employees, we are requiring school staff to wear face coverings to reduce the spread of the virus, unless it is unsafe or when doing so could significantly interfere with the learning process. When face coverings aren’t practical, face shields may be considered,” said Governor DeWine. “We strongly recommend that students in 3rd grade and up wear face coverings as well.”

The guidelines include:

1. Vigilantly assess for symptoms

2. Wash and sanitize hands to prevent spread

3. Thoroughly clean and sanitize school environment to limit spread on shared surfaces

4. Practice social distancing

5. Implement face covering policy

To assist schools in their efforts to implement the guidance, the Ohio Department of Education has created a document titled, “The Reset and Restart Education Planning Guide for Ohio Schools and Districts,” which is designed to help teachers, principals, and administrators with solutions to safety challenges. The document provides resources and information for community decision-makers as they contemplate how to reopen safely.

The guidance announced Thursday was developed in consultation with school superintendents, teachers, parents, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Ohio School Boards Association, Ohio Association of School Business Officials, Alliance for High Quality Education, and Ohio Association of Career Tech Education.

Governor DeWine also committed to working with the Ohio General Assembly on a plan to ensure that federal CARES Act dollars are made available to Ohio’s school districts for unforeseen expenses associated with creating a safe environment.

Assess for symptoms

Since COVID-19 spreads so rapidly, it is essential that students (and their caregiv ers), staff, and volunteers conduct daily health checks prior to going to school which should include taking their temperature and assessing their symptoms. Anyone

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ers), staff, and volunteers conduct daily health checks prior to going to school which should include taking their temperature and assessing their symptoms. Anyone with symptoms (described below) or a temperature above 100 degrees F should stay home. Schools should take temperatures of students and staff as they enter the building.

Someone may have COVID-19 if they experience one or more of the following:

• Fever or chills.

• Cough.

• Shortness of breath or di culty breathing.

• Fatigue.

• Muscle or body aches.

• Headache.

• Loss of taste or smell.

• Sore throat.

• Congestion or runny nose.

• Nausea or vomiting.

• Diarrhea.

Symptoms may range from mild to severe andmay appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

If a student, staff, or volunteer begins to show symptoms or has a temperature above 100°F while at school, they must immediately be separated from other students, staff, or volunteers, given a face covering, and monitored by a staff member wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and maintaining physical distance when possible. The space where an individual waits before he or she goes home should be separate from the nurse’s of ce and other areas students are likely to visit.9 Areas of the building that were occupied by a person exhibiting symptoms should be thoroughly sanitized.

School personnel must refer those displaying symptoms of COVID-19 to an appropriate health care professional or testing sites. Local health departments should be contacted in the case of positive or suspected COVID-19 cases in a school building. Local health professionals can help to identify potentially infected or exposed individuals and assist with appropriate noti cations. Individuals who potentially have been exposed should follow quarantine and other recommendations from local public health of cials and their medical provider.

Schools must monitor daily absences of students and staff for trends. Importantly, sick leave and absence policies should not penalize staff or students for staying home when symptomatic or in quarantine or isolation. Staff, volunteers, support workers, and students who have suspected or con rmed COVID-19 cannot return to school until they meet CDC criteria for return to work/school, and districts should be prepared with appropriate plans for absences. Individuals who test positive for or are suspected to have COVID-19 must experience an improvement in symptoms and isolate for a period of time before returning to school.

Hand washing

Hand washing and sanitizing are important tools in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by killing the virus. Students, staff and volunteers should practice frequent handwashing for at least 20 seconds when hands are dirty, before and after eating, and after using the restroom. Schools must provide opportunities throughout the day for handwashing. To supplement handwashing, schools must provide hand sanitizer (60% to 95% alcohol based) in high traf c areas including entrances to buildings and classrooms and instruct students and staff to use the sanitizer. Additionally, staff, students, and volunteers should avoid touching their mouths, noses, and eyes since the virus easily enters the body through these membranes.

Social distancing

Keeping a distance of six feet or more between people adds another layer of prevention against the spread of COVID-19 by minimizing the chance of coming into contact with the virus through respiratory droplets.

• School staff should try when possible to maintain 6-foot social distance among students, staff, and volunteers in all school environments, including classrooms, hallways, restrooms, cafeteria, playground, drop-off and pick-up locations, and school buses. Where social distancing is difficult, face coverings are even more essential.

• Reinforce distancing with visual cues such as floor markings and signs.

• Avoid using shared materials or shared spaces (lockers, cubbies, etc.) Reduce the mixing of student groups.

• Limit the number of visitors to a school and consider eliminating field trips or large group events where intermingling often occurs.

• Due to the nature of band, choir, theater, and other similar classes, 6-feet social distancing may not be adequate. Teachers and students should maintain at as much distance as possible when actively playing and performing.

• School officials should endeavor to do the best they can to keep social distancing on buses.

Face coverings

Although children are less likely to become severely ill, they often are carriers of the virus and can spread it to school staff or family members at home, some of whom may be high-risk. Additionally, those family members can then carry the virus to others in workplace and community settings.

Face coverings are critical to preventing the spread of the virus from person-to-person.

School staff must wear masks. As with other businesses, all school staff and volunteers must wear face coverings unless it is unsafe to do so or where doing so would significantly interfere with the learning process.

Exceptions include:

• Facial coverings in the school setting are prohibited by law or regulation

• Facial coverings are in violation of documented industry standards

• Facial coverings are not advisable for health reasons

• Facial coverings are in violation of the school’s documented safety policies

• Facial coverings are not required when the staff works alone in an assigned work area

• There is a functional (practical) reason for a staff member or volunteer to not to wear a facial covering in the workplace.

(Schools must provide written justification to local health officials, upon request, explaining why a staff member is not required to wear a facial covering in the school. At minimum, facial coverings (masks) should be cloth/fabric and cover an individual’s nose, mouth, and chin.)

Face shields that wrap around the face and extend below the chin can be considered as an alternative where cloth face coverings would hinder the learning process.

It is strongly recommended that students in third grade and higher wear a face mask unless they are unable to do so for a health or developmental reason.

Students who are being transported to school via school buses are at increased risk for transmission by nature of being in an enclosed space for an extended period of time. Additionally, buses often transport children from multiple grade levels from different parts of the community. It is strongly recommended that school districts require students to wear masks while being transported on school buses.

Cleaning and sanitizing

Cleaning, sanitizing, and avoiding shared materials reduces the chance that students, staff, and volunteers will come into contact with viruses on surfaces.

Schools must clean surfaces frequently, paying close attention to high touch areas and shared materials, and make sanitation wipes or disinfectants labeled for use against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) available in each room and common space. The sharing of supplies and materials should be minimized and if items must be shared, sanitized between each user.

See the guildelines and links to the CDC’s recommendations at coronavirus.ohio.gov