New health guidelines in place for Ohio schools may mean avoiding quarantine for those students who have been exposed to COVID-19 – but they'll need to wear a mask and follow other recommendations.
Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education voted to require masks be worn in all district buildings for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year at their meeting Wednesday night. Other local districts have yet to announce their plans.
- Masking for all students and staff regardless of vaccination status
- At least three feet of physical distance between desks
- Strategies to increase ventiliation
- Cleaning protocols
- Identification of individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
“I think anytime we make a decision that keeps kids in school in a safe way, that is a game-changer,” Mason City Schools superintendent & CEO Jonathan Cooper said.
Quarantine was difficult for students last year, Cooper added, but new state guidance would allow students to stay in school if they’re masking up.
“So, this idea of if you’re wearing a mask you can stay in school is such a big request for us because I think it will encourage more people to wear a mask to keep each other safe as we come back to school together in a week,” he said.
Cooper said about 95% of teachers and staff in Mason are already vaccinated. There are also strong vaccination rates in neighborhoods around the schools – about 70% have at least one dose.
“They are using that to try and probably force schools, administrators, board members to make masks mandatory across the board this year,” said Shannon Wintheiser, the parent of an elementary school student in Sycamore Community Schools.
She said she doesn’t believe masks in schools are healthy for young children, and is leery of the new state guidance.
“Saying that if you’re all masked nobody has to quarantine, nobody has to miss school, and it’s kind of strong-arming the districts, I think, that haven’t made that decision yet or have perhaps made the decision to be optional. Trying to strong-arm them back into giving them another reason to try to do a mandated mask.”