MASON, Ohio — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend teachers, students and staff all begin the new school year in masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
So does the Ohio Department of Health. So does the Warren County Health Department, which released a list of COVID-19 safety recommendations for its local school districts on Tuesday.
But experts’ recommendations are only that: Recommendations.
Students at Mason City Schools, Lebanon City Schools and Springboro Schools can all return to class unmasked, according to the districts’ official policies.
Laura Smith, who has two children at Mason City Schools, said she’s upset the district isn’t taking a hardline stance.
“A piece of cloth over your face seems like a very minor inconvenience to prevent potentially really catastrophic consequences,” she said.
And Warren County appeared Thursday on the CDC’s map of counties with “substantial” community transmission, intensifying her worries.
“That’s concerning,” Warren County Health Commissioner Duane Stansbury agreed. “We’re starting to see that line go up. Due to changes at the state legislature … we cannot force schools to do things.”
He and other health workers can only issue recommendations. It’s up to people like Mason City Schools superintendent Jonathan Cooper to create district policy.
For now, the policy is to allow students the choice of masking or not masking.
"Last year when we started the year, we heard from parents who said we shouldn't be wearing masks,” Cooper said. “This year, we're hearing from parents who say we should be wearing masks."
Smith, still concerned about the transmission that could take place within an unvaccinated and unmasked crowd, wants a line in the sand.
“I feel like it’s the school district’s responsibility to do better by our kids,” she said.
Stanbury, the commissioner, said the most that concerned parents and students can do for now is to mask themselves.
“Whether it's their student and other students in the classroom, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, you can still wear a mask and that will help stop the spread inside the classroom,” he said.