Governor DeWine issued protocols to limit visiting at nursing facilities and orders to restrict mass gatherings and close school buildings for three weeks, the latter beginning at the end of the school day on Monday, March 16. The mass gatherings order includes exceptions for religious gatherings and other activities protected by the First Amendment, and is not meant to apply to stores, restaurants and transportation hubs. He telegraphed the mass gatherings order a day ahead of time, encouraging professional sports teams and others to take steps on their own, and many followed by barring spectators from games and then cancelling tournaments and suspending and/or delaying seasons. The governor also urged all Ohio college and universities to move to online classes only, something many institutions announced plans to do over the week.
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said state leaders are in talks about waivers for testing requirements, report cards, attendance reporting and the like should the virus start to prompt school closings. They also encouraged schools to stay in contact with local health and emergency planning officials, and to cancel any large gatherings. ODE has an FAQ for school-related coronavirus concerns at its website, www.education.ohio.gov.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said it would grant waivers to rules for free and reduced-price school meals amid the outbreak -- specifically the requirement that meals be served in a group setting -- to help ensure students can access meals should schools close.
In a video message to schools Thursday, Superintendent Paolo DeMaria sought to reassure them that state leaders are prepared to waive testing and other requirements and that it's safe for schools to host polling locations in next week's March 17 primary election.
A new collaborative pilot project will use $1 million in existing funds over the next two years to expand broadband access, allowing students in Monroe County's rural Switzerland School District to talk with mental health counselors via videoconferencing known as telehealth. Developed as a partnership between InnovateOhio, Ohio Children's Initiatives, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) and the newly announced BroadbandOhio, the project is part of the state's broadband strategy to expand access to the approximately one million Ohioans without high-speed Internet.
The State Board of Education postponed its planned vote on updated operating standards for Ohio schools Tuesday following member questions and objections to changes from representatives of private schools. The operating standards, which set minimum expectations for schools on topics from basic health and safety to staffing to graduation and course requirements, are due for the five-year review mandated for all state administrative rules. During the public testimony portion of the board agenda, the Ohio Association of Independent Schools (OAIS) and Buckeye Christian Schools Organization (BCSO) expressed opposition to rule language approved by the board's Continuous Improvement Committee.
Ohio charter schools with for-profit management companies would have three years to switch to a nonprofit operator under House legislation announced Wednesday to cap what management companies are paid. The bill from Reps. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Jeff Crossman (D-Parma) also would subject charter schools to the same laws as district schools for state audits and open records. Leadership from Ohio teachers unions joined the lawmakers Wednesday at a press conference to show support for the proposal.
My School, My Choice announced that it has released a 2020 primary election Ohio voter guide. The group said it compiled the guide through a candidate survey so its members and supporters could understand the positions of legislative candidates on school choice issues. Their answers include a copy of the original survey sent to the candidates. Those who are not included in the results did not respond. A copy of the guide can be found at https://tinyurl.com/rnuxkvr.