Protests persist over Beavercreek school mask policy

Crowds filled the lobby of the Beavercreek board of education building to protest the district's decision to mandate masks for students in grades K-6.
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Crowds filled the lobby of the Beavercreek board of education building to protest the district's decision to mandate masks for students in grades K-6.

Parents at Beavercreek schools continue to protest the district’s mask mandate, even as others came forth to support the measure. Parents once again gathered outside the Thursday Beavercreek school board meeting , arguing that wearing masks should be a parent’s choice.

All Beavercreek students and staff are required to wear masks, a decision that has generated pushback from parents since the start of the school year. Opponents of the mask mandate say that the mandate is doing more harm than good.

“Learning facial expressions, learning to sound out letters...these aren’t problems my children have, but younger children in the elementary schools, trying to read, trying to socialize, trying to learn body language, I think it’s a huge problem,” said Steve Perry, father of two Beavercreek students. “There’s a risk-benefit ratio to everything we do in life.”

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“Parents are frustrated that decision makers seem incapable of assessing pediatric COVID risk and acting proportional to that risk,” said Allison Lindsay, parent and school board candidate.

However, others have spoken in favor of the district’s decision, citing spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus across the state, and the benefit to keeping schools open.

“This is not a political position,” said Kevin Tritschler. “I think we can all agree that kids in school, face to face, is what everybody believes is the right thing. And for us to continue to do that and operate our buildings, this is the course in which we have to go.”

Resident Pete Petrini, a 24-year Air Force veteran and grandparent, said that the country was in a different situation when the CDC walked back its recommendations on July 27.

“As a docent at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, I know what it’s like to wear a mask six or seven hours a day,” he said. “It’s not pleasant, but to keep the museum open, the mandate must be enforced.”

Despite the calls for its removal, the school’s mask mandate appears to be working.

“We have seen a significant reduction in quarantines relative to the number of positive infections in our schools,” said Beavercreek spokeswoman Anaka Bushman. “We have also experienced a decline each week in our positive case counts since implementing the mask mandate K-12.”

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“No one is excited to have to return to the classroom wearing masks,” said Superintendent Paul Otten. “We look forward to seeing the smiles of our students and our staff. The implementation of our mask mandate is solely to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, keeping our kids and staff safe, and ensure that our students remain in our classrooms throughout this school year. We cannot educate or meet the needs of our students if they are sick or quarantined.”

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