Gov. talks school guidelines

During his Thursday press conference, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced guidelines for the 2020-21 school year. Local superintendents and Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner spoke with The Times-Gazette about their initial reactions and work they’ve already been doing to prepare for the coming school year.

According to tweets posted to the Ohio governor’s account, DeWine’s office worked with educators and health officials to create guidelines for K-12 schools as they prepare to reopen.

DeWine emphasized the importance of face coverings, including masks and face shields, which he said school staff will be required to wear, “unless it is unsafe or when doing so could significantly interfere with the learning process.”

According to a tweeted graphic highlighting five key guidelines from the “Ohio K-12 Schools Guidance Report,” authored by DeWine and representatives from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the authors recommend frequent assessments for symptoms, diligent hand-washing and hand-sanitizing, thorough sanitation of school environments, social distancing, and face coverings.

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

According to DeWine, the American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly recommends students be physically present in school as much as possible.”

DeWine stated he will work with the Ohio General Assembly to ensure funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act are allotted to schools to help with any unforeseen expenses schools may encounter in the process of reopening.

Highland County Commissioner Jared Warner said he will meet with local superintendents on Tuesday, July 7 to discuss guidelines for the coming school year.

“Our draft guidelines, which we developed last week, match up almost exactly with the governor’s,” Warner said. “We plan to provide our local guidelines for community comment next week.”

Greenfield Exempted Village School District (GEVSD) Superintendent Quincey Gray told The Times-Gazette that Warner sent her and other local superintendents a draft of local guidelines on Wednesday.

“We met about two and a half weeks ago — the county’s superintendents and members of the health department and the emergency response team — and it was a really good meeting. It gave them a chance to ask us questions about what we saw as something that was maybe non-negotiable or where we would have difficulties — things like that,” Gray said. “In the end, I feel like what they sent to us is very reasonable but still promotes safety.”

In a Thursday statement, Gray said, “We look forward to continuing our work with the Highland County Health Department and other districts in our county as we plan for the upcoming school year. Our district task force has been planning over the last few weeks, and we will present our final plan during the July 20 board of education meeting. With local guidelines provided by the health department, in combination with the ODE planning guide, we are now equipped to make final decisions for the school year. Student and staff safety will remain, as always, top priorities.”

During the GEVSD’s school board meeting last week, board members said that for now, the GEVSD is looking at a regular schedule with students attending five days a week when school begins in August, but with guidelines in place.

An online option will be offered for parents and guardians who wish to have their child participate. In that case, devices will be provided so students can complete work.

In a statement from June 30 posted to the district’s website and Facebook page, Gray said, “It currently looks like we will be starting the school year on a regular schedule with all students coming five days a week. We are working with our local health department and waiting on final guidelines before we release additional details to everyone. We will be releasing our full plan in the next couple of weeks. In addition to providing instruction to students on a regular schedule at our district campuses, we will also be providing a remote learning option in which students will be provided a chrome book to access online curriculum. The work that the student completes will be online ONLY and will not involve face-to-face contact with a teacher. Instead, a teacher will provide feedback and grade assignments electronically. This option will be available for students in grades K-12.”

Lynchburg-Clay Superintendent Brett Justice told The Times-Gazette he was in a meeting during DeWine’s press conference, so he was unable to immediately react. Justice added that he and other staff members at Lynchburg-Clay have been working on a plan for the coming school year and the school board hopes to announce its plans during its July 16 meeting.

Hillsboro Superintendent Tim Davis, Fairfield Superintendent Tim Dettwiller, and newly instated Bright Local Superintendent Mike Bick were not available for comment on Thursday.

Hillsboro Board of Education members said during their June meeting that they hope to announce their plan for the 2020-21 school year at their next meeting, which will take place on July 20.

Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.

From left, Charley Roman, Joe Smith and Marilyn Mitchell are visible in this screenshot, which was taken during a virtual Greenfield Board of Education meeting at the end of June. left, Charley Roman, Joe Smith and Marilyn Mitchell are visible in this screenshot, which was taken during a virtual Greenfield Board of Education meeting at the end of June. Times-Gazette file photo
Local superintendents, health commission respond

By McKenzie Caldwell