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Masks in Schools: Lakota, Mason announce policy changes

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 5:11 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2021 at 10:39 AM EDT
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WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WXIX) - Two large school districts in the northern Cincinnati suburbs abruptly changed mask policies Monday to require them in some or all of their schools regardless of vaccination status.

In Warren County, Mason City Schools are only requiring masks for pre-K thru the 6th grade.

Lakota Local Schools in Butler County, which educates nearly 19,000 students in West Chester and Liberty townships, is requiring its entire student body - pre-K thru 12th grade - to mask up. The mandates includes all staff members, too.

A mask survey school officials recently asked parents and staff to complete shows tight margins when it comes to requiring masks versus making them optional.

LAKOTA

In a message Monday to parents, guardians and students on the district’s website, Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller says the decision to mask all students is based on the advice of medical experts who are examining the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases in the county.

The new policy takes effect when classes resume on Wednesday. Lakota students are returning in staggered fashion again for the second year in a row.

“Based on the advice of medical experts, the increasing numbers of positive COVID cases among children in our county and stringent in-school quarantine protocols, we will now require that face masks be worn indoors for all students and staff at Lakota, preschool through twelfth grade, regardless of vaccination status,” the superintendent’s message states.

“We want our students to stay in school, in person. Medical professionals have shared with us that masks add an extra layer of protection, even for vaccinated individuals. By requiring face coverings, our staff and students will not only help protect one another from spreading the virus, but they will also be able to stay in school and avoid quarantine if they are identified as a close contact to a positive case.”

“As a public school district, please understand that we must follow the quarantine protocols set by our local health department. With very few exceptions, students in our early childhood and elementary schools are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine yet. While vaccination rates among teens are on the rise in our county, a significant number are still unvaccinated and requiring face coverings is the best way to protect all of our students and staff.”

The district recently sent out a survey to parents seeking input on masking in schools. On Monday, the district disclosed the results on their website:

“We understand that requiring versus strongly recommending face coverings in school is a very controversial topic. In fact, the survey results confirm this. With over 6,800 responses from parents and students:

  • 49% believe that face coverings should be optional for all grades;
  • 48% believe that face coverings should be required for all or some grades: 33% believe that face coverings should be required for all grades; 15% believe that face coverings should be required for grades K-6 and optional for grades 7-12; and
  • 3% are unsure.

The superintendent said staff survey results were similar. With over 900 staff members responding:

  • 52% believe that face coverings should be optional for all grades;
  • 42% believe that face coverings should be required for all or some grades: 24% believe that face coverings should be required for all grades; 18% believe that face coverings should be required for grades K-6 and optional for grades 7-12; and
  • 6% are unsure.

“We know that our parents want what is best for their own children. So do we,” the superintendent’s message states.

“Please discuss any possible medical exemptions for face coverings with your building administrator. We will closely monitor the numbers of positive COVID cases in our schools and our community, and will adjust our protocols, including face coverings, as needed.”

MASON

Mason City Schools already started for the year last week, but the new policy is effective Tuesday.

“Masks provide a layer of protection that help keep students safe and out of quarantine, the district’s website states.

“In alignment with our public health experts, we strongly recommend that middle school and high school students wear masks while indoors, particularly for those who are unvaccinated.”

Mason Middle School and Mason High School will not mandate masks “unless there are rising levels of positive cases and subsequent quarantines that would necessitate making mask-wearing a requirement,” the website reads.

All district staff are required to wear a mask “if they are within 6 feet of a student,” according to the district’s website.

Visitors to schools will also be required to wear a mask inside schools.

“Remember, the Ohio Department of Health’s new guidelines for quarantine after exposure in K-12 settings allow vaccinated individuals to remain in the classroom and participate in extracurricular activities and sports as long as they have no symptoms,” the district’s website states.

“Importantly, if the exposed individual was unvaccinated but wearing a mask, they can also remain in the classroom and participate in sports and extracurricular activities as long as they have no symptoms.

Earlier this month, the region’s largest school district, Cincinnati Public Schools, announced its school board unanimously voted to require masks indoors for the start of the academic year.

Here’s a roundup of all mask policies for Tri-State Schools.

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