Southwest Ohio’s largest suburban school system today changed its previous stance on masks and will now require its 16,800-students to wear them when classes for the new school year begin later this week.
According to emailed announcements sent this afternoon to Lakota School parents, students, teachers and school staffers in the Butler County school system, masks were no longer optional – the district’s previous position - but now are mandatory for the new school year, which starts later this week.
Lakota officials cited federal, state and county health officials’ recent recommendations to make protective face coverings mandatory for all school-age children – pre-kindergarten to 12th grade – in the wake of a recent spike in the number of positive cases of the coronavirus variant locally, statewide and nationally.
The masks, said school officials, are required in all of the district’s 22 school buildings regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.
“We want our students to stay in school, in person,” wrote Lakota Schools Superintendent Matt Miller in a statement sent to school parents.
Miller also cited the results of a recent school parent survey by Lakota on the issue of masking.
“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.
Masks for students on school buses was already a mandated policy for Lakota and all other Ohio public school buses.
Lakota now joins the region’s largest school district, Cincinnati Public Schools, in requiring that masks be worn indoors by all students, teachers and staffers. Other area districts are expected to also soon switch from an optional mask policy to a mandatory one.
“We know that our parents want what is best for their own children. So do we. Please discuss any possible medical exemptions for face coverings with your building administrator,” said Miller.
“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.”
Miller added: “We want our students to stay in school. We want to limit exposure to COVID-19. We do not want to quarantine close contacts. In order to do this, we need to mask up.”