The Ohio Department of Education has allowed the reopening of licensed preschools and child care programs with enhanced health guidelines to avoid coronavirus spread.
The Ohio Department of Health amended an order that originally closed all K-12 schools, including preschools and child care centers.
In amending the original order, signed by Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, the department exempts preschools, along with licensed day camps, educational support programs, and the use of school facilities for events like voting, food services, health services and charitable work.
Child care facilities were told in a May 29 order they could reopen “once the Ohio Department of Education has in effect rules that meet or exceed the newly adopted Ohio Department of Job and Family Services rules governing child care facilities and so long as all safety standards are met.”
“The decision to re-open an Ohio Department of Education licensed preschool or school age child care program is now a local one and does not require local health department pre-approval,” the ODE said in an announcement.
The Department of Health implemented mandatory rules for child care providers, including reduced staff-to-child ratios. Only one staff member is allowed per four infants, per six toddlers, per nine preschoolers, and per nine school-age children. No more than six infants are allowed in one classroom, with the same rule in place for toddler classrooms. Nine is the maximum number of students per room for preschoolers and school-age children.
Daily symptom assessments are required for employees, and symptomatic employees are mandated to stay home. All staff, children and adults are subject to temperature checks before entering any child care facility.
Face masks are not mandatory, merely recommended as best practices.
Some child care facilities were already open under a Temporary Pandemic Child Care License, and ODE said those facilities can operate under that license until June 9. Those not operating until the pandemic child care license can’t open earlier than that date.
Those working as publicly funded child care, or programs that are available with financial assistance to parents that are in work, education or job training, were able to reopen on May 31.
Regarding K-12 schools, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in a Tuesday press conference that reopening schools will ultimately be up to the local school districts, but he anticipates students will be back in classrooms in the fall.
He prefaced the school announcement by saying coronavirus is still dictating any future plans.
“We don’t know exactly where this pandemic’s going, we don’t know where the virus is going,” DeWine said. “Anything I say could be washed away by new facts.”
He said “broad reopening guidelines” for schools will be released “in the near future.”