Growing number of schools reinstate mask mandates

Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 4:38 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2022 at 7:13 AM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A growing number of local schools are returning to mask mandates amid a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the highly-contagious omicron variant.

Gov. Mike DeWine recently encouraged schools to require facial coverings again, saying it was the “safest thing to do.”

Princeton City Schools in Hamilton County is following the governor’s advice.

With masks mandatory for all, students will continue learning in person at school, says Superintendent Tom Burton.

“We made the decision to stay masked because of the new variant just to see what’s going on,” he explained

Cincinnati Public Schools imposed a mask mandate when students returned to school on Jan. 3.

Then, the district temporarily shifted to a districtwide distance/remote learning model effective Jan. 12, citing ongoing staffing shortages due to surging COVID-19 cases.

In-person learning is scheduled to resume next week, on Monday Jan. 24, if staffing levels are sufficient to safely reopen schools, district officials say.

CPS Spokesperson Fran Russ also is encouraging students and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Reading Schools are taking a different approach.

Superintendent Jason Enix says masks are optional.

Mason City Schools in Warren County closed Friday and are now enforcing a mask mandate for two weeks as classes resume Tuesday.

Superintendent Jonathan Cooper explained why here.

Cooper said, in part: “The reason for that is, that we, every time there is a student in our school that doesn’t have a mask on, and when we have a positive case that’s called into our school nurses, we have to then do a whole process of contact tracing, data-gathering.

“And because of the high volume of positive cases that have been reported to the district over the last 2 weeks, we are way behind. And I cannot have data that is outdated in order to make decisions.

“And so, we need to give our whole process, our system, our nurses and staff a break in that. And the way we can do that is masking up for 2 weeks. Because if everyone is masked, it slows down the whole contract-tracing process immensely.”

Loveland Schools also is enforcing a mask mandate again.

The district shared its policy online, citing a high number of absences due to COVID-19:

“Our case rates have been amongst the best in the state this year and our mitigation plans seem to have helped make that happen. We had hoped that any spike in cases and absences after Winter Break, would resolve by January 18th and that we would go mask-optional for everyone on that day. Unfortunately, the current wave of absences is higher than anticipated.

“When our students return on January 18, our current masking policy will continue, with masks being required for students in PreK-6, and strongly recommended for students in grades 7-12. Please understand that the goal is to get to mask-optional for all of our students, but we need to be diligent for the next week or two.”

Masks remain optional in some districts, including Forest Hills School District.

Forest Hills school officials shared this announcement, saying they implemented a “Mask to Stay/Test to Play” option for all students K-12.

Here’s part of that announcement:

“Updated HCPH mask requirements, in keeping with the original November 10, 2021, return to learn information sent from me, starting Tuesday, January 4, 2022 the district will implement a “Mask Optional” return to learn model. It should be noted, per federal law, that all students using school transportation and those who participate in the Mercer Elementary Head Start program “MUST” continue to wear a mask.

“We will continue to implement the ODH “Mask to Stay/Test to Play” option for all students Preschool through grade 12. Families may either opt to quarantine their child who has been identified as a “close contact” in a school setting for ten days or exercise the following alternative to quarantine protocols.”

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