As schools across the country grapple with bringing kids back into the classroom, parents — and teachers — are worried about safety. We asked pediatricians, infectious disease specialists and education experts for help evaluating school district plans.

What we learned: There's no such thing as zero risk, but certain practices can lower the risk of an outbreak at school and keep kids, teachers and families safer.

Debbie Holmes

With shrinking state funding because of coronavirus-related cuts, at least one Central Ohio school district is taking their financial woes to voters. 

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday added another statewide health order requiring all children in grades K-12 to wear masks while in school, with certain exceptions.

The previous order was for third graders and older. DeWine said the aim is providing safe schools for students and employees when schools return to in-person classes.

Columbus City Schools Board of Education
David Holm / WOSU

The Columbus Board of Education votes Tuesday night on nearly $25 million in coronavirus-related expenditures. 

Ohio State University seal on The Oval
Ohio State University

With coronavirus cases hovering at near-record highs, a growing number of Ohio colleges and universities are rethinking on-campus plans for the fall.

Miami University has reversed its decision for an on-campus start, opting for online only. Ohio University is taking a phased-in approach.

High school football player during the national anthem.
Senior Airman Naomi Griego / U.S. Air Force photo

A revised Ohio health order continues to state that contact sports teams cannot conduct games with other teams, and cannot allow spectators at their scrimmages. High school sports officials say they're working with state leaders to make changes.

The Cincinnati Public School Board on Monday reversed course on its reopening plans for fall. The district will now start the 2020 school year fully remote, instead of with the blended learning model it decided on in late June. 

There is a connection between lower COVID-19 cases and fewer deaths and closed schools, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Katherine Auger of Cincinnati Children's Hospital says states that closed schools early in the pandemic saw fewer new cases and fewer deaths than states that closed later.

Debbie Holmes

After 23 years as a school resource officer, Larry Howell says he'll miss working at Whetstone High School. In June, Columbus City Schools decided not to renew its contract with the Columbus Division of Police following protests over police presence in schools. 

Empty Basketball Courts at Dominion Middle School.
Mary Rathke / WOSU Public Media

WOSU's Letters from Home collects stories about day-to-day lives during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, we continue listening to Ohioans sharing their feelings about the upcoming school year, and the plans for reopening schools.

Licking Heights High School freshmen take notes in a World History class taught by Amy Obhof..
Andy Chow / Ohio Public Radio

The state’s largest teachers’ union says schools in areas where coronavirus poses a threat should plan to start online this fall.

The head of a powerful national teachers union told members Tuesday that its leadership would support "safety strikes" if health precautions are not met amid calls for schools to reopen as coronavirus cases surge.

Randi Weingarten, who leads the American Federation of Teachers, is leaving the final decision to local unions on whether to strike. The AFT — the nation's second-largest teachers union, with 1.7 million members — also unveiled several benchmarks that it said should be met before schools can fully welcome back students and staff.