Face masks in schools: ‘Now is not the time for us to let our guard down’

As COVID-19 hospitalizations rise, Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County urged local schools Monday to continue mask requirements regardless of vaccination status.

The push comes as Troy schools and the Miami Valley Career Tech Center announced plans to scrap their mask mandates Jan. 3, while Kettering, Centerville and others plan to revisit their policies in mid-January. There are also many schools and districts that have not mandated masks at all this fall.

“Now is not the time for us to let our guard down,” said Jennifer Wentzel, Montgomery County Health Commissioner. “The use of face masks is an easy way to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and to increase the safety for everyone while at school.”

As of last Thursday, there were 143 active outbreaks in Montgomery County schools, Public Health said in a press release. Statewide, 4,795 Ohioans were hospitalized with COVID on Monday, 744 of them on ventilators, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Rather than slowing down, COVID hospitalizations this month have been the highest since January.

Public Health officials noted that when teachers, staff and students consistently and correctly wear masks in school, they protect others as well as themselves. They said wearing a mask is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, where physical distancing can’t be maintained.

“Schools should do everything they can to help protect students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Michael Dohn, medical director for Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County. “Vaccinations and the proper use of face masks are the two best precautions to avoid infection and reduce your risk of hospitalization or death.”

ExploreKettering schools change plan, will keep mask mandate longer

Earlier this fall, over 60% of local schools and districts had some form of mask mandate, but many of them have relaxed those policies or are considering doing so after the holiday break.

Troy City Schools will remove its mask requirement beginning Jan. 3, the district announced. Face masks will be suggested, but not required.

The Miami Valley Career Tech Center’s Board of Education voted Dec. 14 to rescind the face mask requirement for anyone on campus, the district said. The change will go into effect on Jan. 4. The district also encouraged students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in a press release announcing the change.

Some schools previously announced plans to change their mask policy but have since changed their minds.

ExploreCenterville schools to keep mask mandate through mid-January

Kettering City Schools officials announced earlier in December that their mask mandate would be lifted when students came back to school on Jan. 3. Now Superintendent Scott Inskeep says that masks will stay in place until at least Jan. 18, citing new COVID increases and “concerns from the medical and science fields.”

Centerville Schools Superintendent Tom Henderson announced to Centerville families last week that the district would continue to require masks until at least mid-January.

Henderson told families that the district expected another uptick in COVID-19 school cases around the holidays as families and friends gather indoors.

“Our goal is to keep students in school in-person so we can continue to move forward with learning,” he said in a statement to parents.

ExploreNational Guard starts hospital work as Ohio COVID issues grow

From a Dayton Daily News survey Thursday and Friday, schools that intended to maintain their mask requirements included Northmont, Yellow Springs, Dayton Public, Dayton Early College Academy and Miami Valley School.

Schools that had some form of mask requirement earlier this fall, but now only recommend them, include Huber Heights, Lebanon, Springboro, Cedar Cliff, Valley View, Carroll High School and the Greene County Career Center.

Other schools have a mask mandate but plan to revisit the mandate based on public health data in January. Yolena Michaud, a spokeswoman for Trotwood-Madison schools, said Trotwood currently expects to continue with its mask mandate, but the policy will be reviewed with the Board of Education heading into the third quarter.

Pam Gayheart, a spokeswoman for Fairborn schools, said the district currently is requiring all staff and students to wear masks, but the superintendent and the Board of Education will be reviewing data to decide what to do in January.

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