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Coronavirus: Dayton teachers’ union boss: ‘Firmer’ school reopen rules would boost safety

Configuring classrooms, buildings and schedules to help assure social distancing as school districts plan to return to in-person classes amid COVID-19 is a significant concern, according to the head of the Dayton Public Schools teachers’ union. FILE
Configuring classrooms, buildings and schedules to help assure social distancing as school districts plan to return to in-person classes amid COVID-19 is a significant concern, according to the head of the Dayton Public Schools teachers’ union. FILE

Configuring classrooms, buildings and schedules to help assure social distancing as school districts plan to return to in-person classes amid COVID-19 is a significant concern, according to the head of the Dayton Public Schools teachers’ union.

Dayton Education Association President David Romick made those comments in responding to questions about Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County’s recommendations last week as districts look to reopen for the first time since being shuttered by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in March due to the coronavirus.

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Romick called PHDMC’s guidelines “generally…..beneficial.” But he noted “though I realize that some flexibility has to be included in the guidance as every district is different, there should be some firmer non-negotiables which might lead to students and school personnel feeling a little safer in the guidance.”

Romick said in an email to the Dayton Daily News “I would say educators’ most significant concern at this point is also the greatest impact on classroom instruction - and that is how to best configure classrooms, school buildings and schedules to conform with best practice in distancing to maintain maximum staff and student safety. This, both within our school buildings and in transporting students to and from school, is of great concern.”

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The PHDMC’s recommendations included “some general ideas” that “apply in every situation,” but districts “will need to customize their plans to meet this guidance,” said Jennifer Wentzel, director of environmental health with PHDMC, in a statement released by the agency.

Among Public Health’s recommendations were face masks for all students in grades 3-12, classroom occupancy “based on each individual circumstance with the maximum amount of safety considerations possible,” and assigning students seats.

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“Normal student spacing within a school building during a school day does not take distancing into account,” Romick said. “Therefore, we are forced to look at alternative ways to use our classroom and non-classroom spaces, again, with the goal of maximum safety being paramount.

“While we know and have known that any return to school for 2020-21 would be different than normal, it is extremely difficult not to know what that looks like,” he added.