There have been a few important new guidance documents issued from the Ohio Departments of Education (ODE) and Health (ODH). Here’s a quick overview of their key elements.
ODH guidance document
On April 8, ODH issued the Director’s Amended Order for Social Distancing, Facial Coverings and Non-Congregating. The order remains in effect until it is modified or rescinded by the ODH Director. For schools, the most important aspects of the order are:
- Face masks must be worn by anyone engaging with people who are outside their household. NOTE: The order does not rescind or supersede the Aug. 13, 2020, ODH order on facial coverings for students in schools, which remains in effect.
- Congregating in groups should be avoided. Gatherings should be limited to 10 people.
- Guidelines on maintaining a six-foot social distance from other individuals, washing hands or sanitizing frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, sanitizing surfaces and refraining from shaking hands remain in effect.
- For any indoor facility with fixed seating, the maximum number of spectators permitted is twenty-five percent of the facility’s capacity.
- Buildings accessible to the public should strive to maximize ventilation, including opening doors and windows.
The order also updates the handling of confirmed COVID-19 cases among students. Youth who are not required to quarantine due to exposure occurring in a classroom setting under the school-based exposure guidance are permitted to participate in organized sports activities and extracurricular activities as long as they remain symptom free and follow applicable guidance. For athletes and students whose exposure was not in a classroom setting, the order provides:
Players, coaches, officials, or other individuals who had close contact (within six feet of an infected individual for at least 15 minutes) or who had direct physical contact with the person (e.g., who were coughed on or sneezed on by the infected person) and who remain asymptomatic may consider the following to consider stopping the quarantine:
- After day 10 without testing
- After day 7 after receiving a negative test result (test must occur on day 5 or later).
More information about the order as it affects athletic contests is available in the April 9, 2021, Ohio High School Athletic Association Administrator Update.
ODE guidance documents
As the 2020-21 school year comes to a close, students, families and districts are focusing on the traditional end-of-year activities. Earlier this week, ODE issued guidance documents on graduation and prom to help districts plan.
The Responsible RestartOhio - Graduation Ceremonies document notes that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to recommend that large gatherings should be avoided. The document then provides items for districts to consider if they are hoping to hold graduation ceremonies or commencements. The guidance document includes considerations for masking and:
- Attendance, including limiting seating or holding multiple, smaller events, and giving families of students priority for available seating.
- Location and sanitation, including holding the event outside, developing pathways and plans to move people safely in to, out of, and within the venue, and making plan for sanitizing the space.
- Social distancing, including seating groups and spacing people, eliminating lines and queues, and establishing one-way traffic plans within the building, including restrooms.
The Responsible RestartOhio - Prom and Post-Prom document again includes a reminder about the CDC recommendations. It goes through a list of items for districts to consider if they are planning to hold proms and post-prom activities. The guidance document includes considerations for:
- Location, including holding the events outside if possible, maximizing ventilation and posting signs at all entrances about mask wearing and social distancing.
- Social distancing, including maximizing distance between attendees, even when dancing, choosing a large enough venue to accommodate the number of expected attendees, providing for one-way traffic, limiting the number of people seated in a group, and managing food and beverage service and seating while eating.
- Sanitation, including requiring attendees to wash or sanitize hands when entering, providing hand-washing and sanitizing stations throughout the venue, and disinfecting touched surfaces regularly.
As always, OSBA’s division of legal services will continue to monitor new guidance from ODE and ODH and sharing it with school districts. Please contact us at (855) OSBA-LAW or (855) 672-2529 if you have any questions.