Group releases return-to-school plan

By Eddie Mowen Jr. -

EATON – The Preble County Return to School Coalition, a group consisting of representatives from the county’s five school districts, local health and other officials, was formed to create protocols to ensure student safety this fall, based on an idea proposed by Preble Shawnee Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop.

During a meeting in Eaton in June, National Trail Superintendent Bob Fischer said the group reached out to a varied list of participants. “Because we wanted to have as many well-rounded opinions and decision-maker ideas from people who had a better understanding and a better knowledge of what we were dealing with to help us make decisions.”

The group began meeting in late May, with the goal of starting school in August.

“Our hope — I think I could say this for the group,” Fischer added, “Our hope is that we’re back in a quote, unquote, ‘normal’ situation. But who knows what normal is going to look like two months from now? But our goal is to bring school back.”

On July 9, the group released the collaborative agreement between Eaton Community Schools, National Trail Local Schools, Preble County Educational Service Center, Preble Shawnee Local Schools, Tri-County North Local Schools and Twin Valley South Local Schools. The document was created in conjunction with the Preble County Health Department and other local stakeholders to ensure the protocols align with the most current data and community expectations.

The document’s purpose is “to create a county-wide framework allowing students and teachers to meet in a traditional classroom setting, while being sensitive to current national, state, regional and local health concerns,” it states. Its intent is to guide discussion on a local district level regarding reopening schools.

It is reasonable to expect that the protocols each district implements may change as local conditions change, officials noted.

Preble County Schools Common Reopening Agreement

All Ohio schools were closed for the remainder of the school calendar beginning on March 17, by order of the Governor and the Director of the Ohio Department of Health in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.

The agreement states: “On July 2, 2020, the Governor announced guidelines for Ohio school re-opening for the 2020-21 school year. School district superintendents from each public-school district in Preble County, along with the Preble County Educational Service, local medical and mental health professionals, and the Preble County Health Commissioner came together to identify common practices for school re-opening in Preble County, based on state guidelines.

“These general principles will guide each school district as they move forward with re-opening schools throughout Preble County:

“1. Each school district will implement recommended safety protocols.

“2. Each school district will continue to work closely with the Preble County Health Department (PCHD) to promote safety in each school building.

“3. School districts recognize the need for consistency in areas of operations while recognizing that individual differences in classroom sizes, school facilities, and building operations may lead to some inconsistencies.

“The following practices will be common to all Preble County public school districts:

Daily self-monitoring

“• Parents should monitor their child’s temperature and health symptoms on a daily basis before coming to school.

“• Any student with a fever over 100F should stay home.

“• Any student that has the following symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home from school and should see their primary care provider to be assessed for COVID-19: Fever or chills, Cough, Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, Fatigue, Muscle or body aches, Headache, Loss of taste or smell, Sore throat, Congestion or runny nose, Nausea or vomiting, Diarrhea.

Returning to school after confirmed or probable COVID-19 diagnosis

“If a student is diagnosed as having COVID-19, they must meet the following criteria to return to school:

“▪ Complete isolation or quarantine procedures in coordination with PCHD, and

“▪ Three days with no fever (without using fever reducing medication), and

“▪ Other symptoms improved, and

“▪ 10 days since symptoms first appeared.

“Parents must communicate with the school to confirm that the student has been fever free for 24 hours, without the use of fever reducing medication.

Health issues that are not diagnosed as COVID-19

“Any other illnesses should be handled in the routine manner according to district policies.

“Schools shall send home any child or employee who has a temperature of 100 degrees or higher. This individual may not return until they are fever free for 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medication.

“▪ If the individual has had contact with someone confirmed or probable to have COVID-19, he or she must complete isolation or quarantine procedures in coordination with PCHD prior to returning to school.

“▪ Students that only have a fever and no other symptoms and have not had any contact with an individual that has COVID-19 may return to school after they are fever free for 24 hours without using any fever reducing medications. The child may return to school only after 24 hours of no fever. To return to school the parent must communicate with the school to confirm that the student has been fever free for 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medication.

Communications — COVID-19 positive case

“When a student/staff member has been diagnosed with COVID-19, communication will come from the Preble County Health Department (PCHD), not the school district.

“• Quarantine requirements will be determined and communicated by the PCHD.

Food service

“• All districts will offer food service.

“• Students should wash or sanitize their hands prior to eating.

“• Logistics of food service will be determined by each district in compliance with PCHD.


“• Districts will inform parents that safety protocols are in place but any student who attends school will incur some level of exposure to germs, as typical in a public and school setting. Districts will increase the intensity of cleaning, practicing good hygiene and safety procedures in order to reduce the exposure of germs.

“• Classroom occupancy will be determined based on each individual circumstance with a recommended minimum of three (3) feet distance between individuals in a classroom.

“• Student face covering policies will be determined by individual districts.

“• School employees are required to follow safety policies and procedures as determined by individual districts.

“• School employees will be required to use a face covering unless when doing so would interfere with the educational process.

“• Assigned seating is recommended by PCHD.


“• There are different levels of school visitors, and each district will make decisions for each situation.

“• Visitors are generally discouraged from being in school district facilities.

“• Safety protocols such as taking temperatures will be implemented for all visitors.


“• PCHD recommends assigned seating to determine who must be quarantined if there is a positive case that rides the bus.

“• Disinfect high touch surfaces on buses after completing each route.

“• Face masks are required for drivers and highly recommended for students.

“• In the event state policies require school districts to use alternative schedules, districts may adopt minimum requirements for transportation to reduce the number of students who are eligible for school district transportation.


“• School districts will make every effort to maintain consistency with other safety procedures.

“• This may mean that districts limit student access to certain pieces of playground equipment and restrict activities that are ‘high touch’ and difficult to clean or maintain social distancing.

“• Students must sanitize their hands before and after recess.”

The Preble County Return to School Coalition is made up of the following members: Jeff Parker, Eaton Community Schools Superintendent; MissAnne Imhoff, Eaton Community Schools Assistant Superintendent; Bob Fischer, National Trail Local Schools Superintendent; John Toschlog, National Trail Local Schools Director of Transportation and Safety; Shawn Hoff, Preble County Educational Service Center Assistant to the Superintendent; Matt Bishop, Preble Shawnee Local Schools Superintendent; Jaime Ranly, Preble Shawnee Local Schools Curriculum Director; Bill Derringer, Tri-County North Local Schools Superintendent; Denny Dyer, Tri- County North Local Schools Director of Facilities; Scott Cottingim, Twin Valley Community Local Schools Superintendent; Vicki Unger, Twin Valley Community Local Schools School Nurse; Erik Balster, Preble County Health Department Health Commissioner; Dr. Jill Vosler, Primary Care Physician and Amy Raynes, Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Executive Director.

By Eddie Mowen Jr.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.