Rising COVID cases spur Centerville schools to rework mask plan

Superintendent on COVID cases: ‘I’ve become convinced that this is different than before. This is much stronger.’

Rising COVID-19 cases have Centerville’s superintendent preparing a new face mask plan, an “inevitable” move that other school districts are taking.

Increased numbers of coronavirus cases have occurred at the middle schools and Centerville High School, both levels where face masks are optional, Superintendent Tom Henderson told board of education members Monday night.

Lower grade levels — where masks are mandatory — have only had four students quarantined due to in-school exposure, he said.

Board member Dr. David Roer, a physician, told Henderson “your numbers show that masking is helping. It’s not perfect … but it’s obviously helping the elementary schools.

“I’m not sure what numbers we’re going to look at to say ‘it’s time to mask everyone.’ But I think it’s an inevitable end point,” Roer said. “I still think the sooner we make that decision the better. I just think the time is now.”

Many districts have already stepped up their masking requirements. Dayton Public Schools earlier this month announced a mask mandate for all students and staff, while Fairborn did so last week.

Beavercreek said it would require masks for K-6 students and a recommendation on masks was expected Tuesday night in Kettering, where they have been optional for all district students since classes started Aug. 12.

Henderson said he would provide the Centerville board with a revised plan, noting “I do think … the board is probably right that it is inevitable that we’ll have to pivot and make some changes here.”

Since Aug. 16 there have been 57 positive COVID cases among Centerville students and staff, Henderson said. He said two members of the district’s central office team were not at Monday night’s board work session because they are recovering.

“It’s affecting a lot of places. It’s affecting a lot of people,” he said. “And I’ve become convinced that this is different than before. This is much stronger.

“I know the people I am referring to … they’re struggling to get back,” Henderson added. “These are healthy, young individuals that have had a hard time getting over this this time. So it worries me, quite frankly.”

This year’s classes are likely to average about 20 students in kindergarten, increasing in higher grades and topping out at about 25 to 26 at the high school, Henderson has said.

Board member John Doll said to keep students in the classroom, “the only way we can do that is to make sure that we don’t have a spread that’s going to continue as (Roer) pointed out is getting larger and larger.”

Board Vice President Megan Sparks said — “at a bare minimum” — masks should be required for sixth-graders, some of whom are not old enough to get a vaccine.

But board member Allison Durnbaugh said she thinks masks should remain a family choice.

“I don’t think it is my role to determine the masking situation,” she said.

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