Coronavirus: Area schools await local public health guidance before reopening

Local public health officials aim this week to release recommendations as school districts plan to reopen classes in August for the first time since the coronavirus prompted their spring closing.

School district leaders met with Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County officials for more than an hour Monday morning reviewing guidelines Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week. Local educators also sought clarity for in-person instruction as August approaches, said Dan Suffoletto, public information supervisor for PHDMC.

“Certainly, the schools are trying to think of what they can do and we’re also trying to offer advice in terms of what can be done,” Suffoletto said.

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He said the agency may make recommendations on Wednesday.

Dayton Public Schools has announced an Aug. 17 start date while Huber Heights City Schools Superintendent Mario Basora said his district’s board of education is set to vote Thursday on pushing back the first day from Aug. 13 to Aug. 27.

Centerville City Schools had set an Aug. 19 start date with a goal of “in-person learning,” but has reconsidered the date, district Spokeswoman Sarah Swan said late Monday afternoon. Kettering and Oakwood schools also have yet to settle on a first day.

Kettering schools Superintendent Scott Inskeep said after Monday’s meeting with PHDMC he planned “to convene our Back-to-School Task Force and to take the state and county guidelines and weave them into a reopening plan that will get Kettering students safely back into our classrooms and our buildings by mid-August,” according to a message posted on the district’s website after DeWine’s announcement.

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“My goal is to be able to share this detailed plan with parents/guardians, staff, students and the community by the end of the week of July 13,” Inskeep added.

Due to COVID-19, Ohio is requiring school staff to wear face coverings when school starts and is strongly recommending students in third grade and up wear face masks, according to guidelines set by DeWine.

Schools will have to implement their own face coverings policy, assess students and staff for symptoms, wash and sanitize hands, clean and sanitize schools and practice social distancing, according to the state.

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Dayton has said it will offer full in-person classes, with a separate online option for families that request it. That district announced Monday it will be prepared to switch to online learning if a student or staff member is diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Centerville Superintendent Tom Henderson said in a message to district families “we feel strongly about the importance of in-person learning, and our goal is to have students physically present in school buildings.

“However, we do anticipate there will be some families who do not want their children to return to school in August, so we will have a remote learning option available,” he added.

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Likewise, Huber Heights has been drafting plans that would allow students to take part in either full-time, in-person or “100% online” options, Basora said last week during a Facebook Live session.

Interviews with parents, students and staff have included information that shows “empathy and understanding of where (they’re) coming from,” he said.

Meanwhile, Oakwood has yet to finalize a reopening plan, district Spokeswoman Traci Hale said Monday.

The plan, Superintendent Kyle Ramey said in a message to district families last week, “must be flexible, allowing for changes and revisions at a moment’s notice.”

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