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Forest Hills community split on masking in schools

As COVID-19 cases surge, CDC recommends universal indoor mask use
Posted at 8:16 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 09:12:16-04

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Students in the Forest Hills School District head back to school in the upcoming weeks – and right now, no decision has been made about students wearing masks in the classroom. A special board meeting has been set up to discuss the issue on Wednesday.

A member of the school board said she’s gotten close to 300 emails from people on both sides of the issue – and that includes students.

“Please mandate masks for us,” Turpin High School student C.J. Hastings wrote in one message. “A mask is just a simple piece of cloth.”

An incoming freshman this upcoming school year, C.J. said he wants masks to be mandatory for more than personal reasons.

“I don’t think I’ll get sick, but I’m worried that people will get sick,” his email reads. “And that will not be good for anybody.”

Due to being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and having to quarantine, Hastings was forced to miss a band concert last year.

His mother said health is a big concern. Although C.J. is vaccinated, her younger son isn't yet eligible.

“My initial reaction is: what is there to discuss?” Natalie Hastings said. “No one under 12 is vaccinated and I have some concern about what we don’t yet know about how COVID could have a long-term impact.”

A Facebook group called “Masks Optional” within the Forest Hills School District said, “The decision to wear a mask or not should solely be up to individual families.”

“My plea to them is to listen to the doctors but also listen to the students,” Natalie said. "It’s not about any political group, any sort of lobbying organization, it’s about the students and the staff.”

The Hamilton County Republican Party said it will support organizations that protect student choice on masks.

“This is not a position I ever thought I’d be in as a school board member and yet here we are,” Forest Hills School Board member Leslie Rasmussen said.

The mask policy will be voted on at the next meeting on Wednesday.

“My primary goal has to be how to keep the most kids in school and consistently,” Rasmussen said. “I look for guidance on this, to the experts.

She mentioned recommendations and guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A presentation at the next school board meeting will explain potential quarantine impacts based on the board’s decision to mandate masks or not.

Members of the Masks Optional group have a planned peaceful demonstration at Nagel Middle School, where the board meeting will be held, starting at 5 p.m. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.