XENIA — Greene County Public Health officials Wednesday released their reopening plan for county schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
The health district created the set of guidelines — “Back to School Guidance for Greene County Schools” — for each district to consider as they plan their respective reopenings amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
All schools closed March 10 under an order by Ohio Department of Health — which released reopening guidelines July 2. Not long after, Greene County schools came to an agreement on certain reopening practices, although it is up to each of the seven districts and the career center to develop and implement safety protocols specific to their needs.
The new GCPH plan encourages schools to follow the state’s guidance, collaborate with other districts for operational consistency, as well as work closely with GCPH and adhere to its safety guidelines to every extent possible.
“It is recognized that we all have a role to play in creating a supportive, educational environment while simultaneously protecting the health of students, the student’s family members, parents, teachers, support team members, visitors, etc.,” the document begins. “It is vital that everyone work together in a collaborative way to create policies and procedures that protect the integrity of the educational process and foster the overall health of everyone.”
The 7-page document, which is available in full at www.gcph.info, contains general guidelines on reopening; a daily symptom assessment; a plan in the event of a positive case; cleaning and sanitizing recommendations; steps to keep water systems safe; protocols on classroom occupancy, food service, visitors/volunteers, and restricted activities; a list of resources; and a modifiable sample letter to send home to families in the event of a positive case.
Within the symptom assessment guidelines, officials recommend everyone conduct a daily health and temperature check before going to school, list symptoms that should cause a person to stay home, and include a set of criteria to meet before allowing a child to return to school after illness.
The guide also outlines steps to take if a student, teacher, or staff member tests positive, detailing how long that person must stay home and when contact tracing is needed, as well as how to report the case.
Other best practices include using approved sanitizers and cleaners to frequently clean surfaces and shared materials, and encouraging individuals to bring their own water to minimize touching water fountains.
Classroom occupancy should be determined based on individual circumstances, according to the document. Face masks are recommended for all students grades 3-12, as well as social distancing within reason in each classroom.
Recommendations regarding food service include the prohibition of buffets and salad bars, creating separate or shortened lunch periods, using assigned seating, or using other areas in the school for dining.
The guide discourages visitors, and advises certain activities — choirs and choruses, field trips and overnights, dances and assemblies — be temporarily restricted until the pandemic is over.
“Districts should inform and communicate with parents that safety protocols are in place, but any student who attends school will incur some level of risk,” GCPH officials said. “Districts will strive to decrease the likelihood of infection with hygiene, cleaning, sanitizing, and safety-related procedures, but being in a public place has a certain level of risk that cannot be eliminated.”