As school districts prepare for the start of the school year, Pepple & Waggoner is providing a weekly overview of recent developments and pending deadlines.
Order-Facial Coverings in Child Education Settings
After an extended delay, the Ohio Department of Health (“ODH”) issued its Order on facial coverings (masks). The Order became effective on August 14th and may be accessed here. The Order’s language differs substantively from the ODH’s prior Guidance regarding facial coverings.
Among other changes, the new Order mandates masks for students and specifies when the requirement to wear a mask does not apply. Several of the changes are bound to lead to more questions. For instance, the Order provides that masks are not required when “[s]tudents are able to maintain a distance of six feet or more and a mask break is deemed necessary by the educator supervising the educational setting.” Since “supervising” educator is not defined by the Order, Boards will want to determine which “supervising” educators can authorize breaks and when such breaks may be authorized.
The Order also provides that masks are not required “when an established sincerely held religious requirement exists that does not permit a facial covering.” This language appears to be an imprecise restatement of the legal standard pertaining to “sincerely held” religious beliefs or practices. Boards will want to contact legal counsel if receiving a religious-based exemption request.
Boards should ensure Board policies and reopening plans align with the new requirements.
Face Shield FAQ
In a separate FAQ issued on Friday (August 14th), ODH already clarified its new Facial Covering Order (referenced above). The FAQ provides that face shields are not an appropriate facial covering under the Order – unless an exception applies. Under prior guidance from ODH, a face shield was an alternative “where cloth face coverings would hinder the learning process;” suggesting face shields could be used by choice. The new FAQ specifies that face shields may be considered only if an exception specified in the Order applies. The FAQ may be accessed here. Again, Boards should ensure their policies and reopening plans align with the new FAQ.
As of last Friday (August 14th), changes to Title IX’s regulations are now effective, as summarized in this blog post by Jackie Brickman. In addition to complying with the new regulations and updating Board policies, district staff are required to complete training on the new regulations. For districts that have not completed training, Pepple & Waggoner is continuing to offer in-service presentations to bring school districts into compliance.
Remote Learning Plans
By this Friday (August 21st), Remote Learning Plans must be Board adopted and submitted to ODE. If your Board has not approved its Plan, a meeting to approve the Plan must be held in advance of the deadline. The Ohio Department of Education has clarified that Remote Learning Plans may be amended after initial adoption.
Requests of Leave
As staff return, a number of questions related to COVID-19 leaves have been raised. An overview of such leaves can be reviewed in this post Chris Williams, which may be accessed here.