Northmont schools switch to full mask mandate

The Northmont school district will switch from a partial mask mandate to a full one affecting all grade levels on Wednesday, school officials said. The rule will affect all students, staff and visitors.

Northmont previously had required masks only in grades pre-K to 6, as those students don’t have the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

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“Our belief is that we need to do everything in our power to drive our attendance rates back to an acceptable level,” Superintendent Tony Thomas said in a letter to families Monday night.

District spokeswoman Jenny Wood said 410 Northmont students were out of school on isolation/quarantine before the district instituted its PK-6 mask policy, and that number was down to 230 after two weeks of the partial mask mandate.

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As of Wednesday, 11 of the Dayton area’s 12 largest school districts will have full mask mandates, while Springboro retains a partial mask mandate for grades pre-K to 6 only.

With COVID case rates very high locally, many students are likely to come into close contact with the virus at school. That has forced high numbers of quarantines at many schools. Health department guidance says if those students are unmasked during COVID contact, they have to quarantine, often for 10 days.

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“We can all agree that keeping students in school is an objective worth fighting for and so we ask the community to support the decision,” Thomas said.

Not surprisingly, the public response to the district’s announcement was not uniform. Many people thanked the district for the move amid a recent surge in COVID hospitalizations. Others suggested masks don’t work, despite CDC data that they do, and questioned why school sports should continue unmasked.

“We will continue to monitor the number of cases and other recommendations from the medical community and adjust our protocols accordingly,” Thomas said.

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