COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s 1.7 million students will return to school this fall so long as districts abide by a set of guidelines established by the state, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday.
Teachers and other school staff will be required to wear face coverings when classes resume this fall. In some cases, a face shield can be used instead of a mask if needed, DeWine said.
While students will not be required to wear masks, the governor said he strongly recommends students in grades three through 12 wear them unless there is a medical or developmental reason they cannot.
“We just use common sense. We follow the science we use common sense with regard to how it gets implemented,” DeWine said. “We wear face masks to protect each other.”
Other guidelines include monitoring for symptoms, a testing strategy with local health departments, proper social distancing, frequent hand washing and thorough sanitation of desks and other surfaces, DeWine said. Schools, the governor said, will also be required to provide hand sanitizer.
DeWine also suggested schools consider modifying lunch schedules or having students eat in classrooms to limit contact with others. DeWine said he hopes to announce next week how much funding the state will provide to help schools implement guidelines.
School buildings are “prime places” for the spread of COVID-19, the governor said. That’s why, DeWine said, Ohio has an obligation to educate children and keep them safe at the same time.
The governor praised educators who helped develop plans and the teachers who adjusted their lesson plans last spring with little to no notice.
“The dedication, the focus of our educators in the state of ohio is absolutely amazing,” DeWine said. “They went through a difficult time…but they remain focused on our kids.”
Ohio’s more than 600 local school districts have already begun to plan for the fall.
Some districts are planning to continue online learning, some intend to have students return to the classroom, while others are looking at a hybrid approach like scheduling students on alternate days.
In Columbus, preliminary plans call for high school students to attend class online while younger students would learn remotely three days of the week and be in the classroom the other two.
Cincinnati schools recently announced that half its students would be in the classroom three days of the week and the other half two days with groups alternating each week.
DeWine ordered schools closed March 14, forcing students to finish the school year online.
While the pandemic persists, the governor has said there is widespread consensus across the state that students need to get back to school so they don’t fall further behind than they already have.