Centerville schools’ COVID-19 mask rules criticized for lack of exemptions

Centerville City Schools revised face mask policy requires all K-12 students, staff and visitors in all district facilities to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
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Centerville City Schools revised face mask policy requires all K-12 students, staff and visitors in all district facilities to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Officials say district ‘will consider very limited exceptions to the mask requirement.’

The Centerville City School District’s new COVID-19 face mask policy is being criticized with some residents saying it doesn’t allow for medical or religious exemptions.

Centerville Schools officials say the district “will consider very limited exceptions to the mask requirement,” including medical exemptions in accordance with federal guidance.

The aim is to keep students in school for in-person education at a time when some local schools are temporarily moving to remote learning due to the large number of students testing positive for coronavirus, Centerville spokeswoman Sarah Swan said Tuesday in an email.

Washington Twp. resident Jill Stevens was among about 100 people at Monday night’s board of education meeting and was one of about 10 to address the revised mask policy that started that day.

Stevens said she was “against masking our kids without exemption or exception.”

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She said, “We must stand up for our values and our children. I’m speaking for the parents against mandates, as mandates are against the Christian faith and American values.”

Centerville High School student Jenna Johns told the board she has medical issues that — when wearing a mask — “I feel like I’m being suffocated … pretty claustrophobic.”

Centerville’s revised policy requires all K-12 students, staff and visitors in all district facilities to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, Superintendent Tom Henderson announced last week.

Previously, the district mandated only that masks be required in K-5 buildings while strongly recommending them in middle schools and at Centerville High School.

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But board members last week asked Henderson to come up with a revised policy as the number of COVID-19 cases and quarantines attributed to the delta variant increased.

From Aug. 21-27, Centerville reported 42 new positive cases of COVID-19 and 53 new quarantines, according to its website.

Huber Heights City Schools this week said Wayne High School will transition to all remote learning until Sept. 14 due to the high number of COVID cases among students.

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Centerville’s policy states exemptions to its mask mandate, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, are limited to:

•Children under the age of 2;

•Anyone who has trouble breathing;

•Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.

Medical documentation of such conditions must be provided, according to the district.

“We are not making any changes to our mask requirements at this time,” Swan said.

While the district will monitor the COVID issue, “our goal in Centerville is to keep students in school in-person so we can keep learning moving forward, and we feel that requiring masks for our students, staff and visitors right now can help us keep as many students coming to school as possible.”

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