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Parents, students protest Lakota mask mandate

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 9:29 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2021 at 10:30 AM EDT
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LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WXIX) - Parents and students protested Tuesday morning over the Lakota School District’s mask mandate.

The new mask policy was announced less than 24 hours ago.

Students and staff in pre-K thru 12th grade will have to wear a mask while indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

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 a staggered fashion again for the second year in a row.

Lakota is southwest Ohio’s largest suburban school system with nearly 19,000 students from West Chester and Liberty Township in Butler County.

“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.”

Lakota’s superintendent also announced on Monday the results of a mask survey the district recently asked parents and staff to complete. The result show tight margins when it comes to requiring masks versus making them optional.

With over 6,800 responses from parents and students, Miller reported:

  • 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.

Some school districts around the Tri-State, including Cincinnati Public and Middletown, are bringing back mask policies in light of the COVID-19 delta variant driving a surge in cases.

The University of Cincinnati and Xavier University also are requiring masks regardless of vaccination status.

Other districts, such as Lebanon and Fairfield, are not requiring them, at least so far.

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