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DeWine unveils 5 guidelines for Ohio schools; masks required for staff, recommended for students 3rd grade and up

DeWine says the guidelines are back by science and his office worked with educators and health officials to create them.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday unveiled guidance from the state on reopening schools this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

DeWine issued five guidelines for Ohio schools to follow:

  1. Vigilantly assess for symptoms (including temperature checks)
  2. Wash & sanitize hands
  3. Clean & sanitize shared surfaces at schools
  4. Practice social distancing
  5. Face coverings policy (required for staff, recommended for kids 3rd grade and up

Most teachers will be required to wear masks or face shields at schools that choose to resume in-person classes this fall, and face coverings are strongly recommended for students in third grade and above, he said.

State officials are urging schools to use social distancing, vigilantly assess symptoms, provide hand sanitizer, and thoroughly clean school spaces, but the guidance leaves many details up to the districts.

With widespread agreement that it's important to get children back into school buildings when safely possible, the guidance is aimed at balancing safety, local control of schools and the state's obligation to educate children, DeWine said.

Groups representing school boards and administrators said they're pleased with the guidance and felt it recognizes that a one-size-fits-all approach is not the solution. But the state's largest teachers union wanted more.

“While we appreciate the consideration given to the importance of social distancing, health checks, and sanitation protocols in the governor’s plan, it lacks a means of enforcement, even when a county is in the highest tier of the alert system,” Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro said in a statement.

The Ohio Federation of Teachers raised concerns about schools facing additional costs along with budget cuts. DeWine said he hopes to work with legislative leaders to direct more federal relief funding to schools.

Some districts have already moved ahead with their own proposals. Columbus, the state's largest district, this week announced plans for all-online classes for high school students at least through the fall, and younger students in classrooms only two days a week.

More details on the new school guidance will be available on coronavirus.ohio.gov.

RELATED: Columbus City Schools release recommendations to reopen this fall; 2 days in-person for K-8 students, all remote for high school