Schools change quarantine rules, but only few drop masks

Springboro, Huber ended mask mandates; Kettering superintendent said he’s considering it

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Several Dayton-area school districts have adapted their COVID-19 quarantine policies to updated Ohio guidelines, but fewer have changed face mask rules as state coronavirus cases drop.

Huber Heights and Springboro have stopped mask mandates in recent weeks amid decreasing coronavirus cases and with vaccines for younger students now rolling out.

Meanwhile, Centerville, Kettering, Oakwood, Miamisburg, Northmont, Springboro, Tipp City, Troy and West Carrollton all revised quarantine rules after the state adopted new guidelines late last month based on a Warren County pilot program, a Dayton Daily News survey found.

Mask policy changes have not been made in the vast majority of districts, but some are now more open to considering them, according to responses from more than a dozen districts in Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Warren counties.

Some local schools never had a mask mandate this fall. As of mid-September, when the Delta variant of COVID was surging, 31 Dayton-area schools and districts had full mask mandates, five had partial mandates, and 21 had no mandate.

Springboro dropped its mask mandate for preschool through sixth grade on Nov. 1, said district spokesman Scott Marshall. Masks are optional but strongly recommended, as they have been for grades 7-12 all school year, he said.

Given the state’s quarantine change, “along with a continual downward trend of positive cases throughout” the district and across Ohio “over the last four weeks, the decision was made to lift our mask requirement,” Marshall said. “Our initial mask requirement was implemented to keep students in school.”

Springboro’s decision came the same week federal emergency use authorization was granted for coronavirus vaccines for those ages 5 to 11. That age group began getting shots Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said.

The 21-day average of statewide COVID-19 cases dropped last week, according to the Ohio Department of Health. On Thursday, Ohio was averaging 3,580 new cases a day. A month prior, the state’s 21-day average was 6,179 new cases a day, ODH data showed.

The decision to drop Huber Heights’ mask requirement for all grades came Oct. 16, when the board of education let it expire. Superintendent Mario Basora recommended the mandate be extended through Nov. 13.

Huber Heights chose at the start of the school year not to ask individuals who were near a COVID positive case to quarantine, but guardians could choose to keep kids home if they wanted to.

Tipp City Exempted Village Schools has not mandated masks this school year, said Superintendent Mark Stefanik.

Mask changes in two of the area’s largest districts — Centerville and Kettering — may be considered by the end of 2021, officials said.

The issue has been hotly debated at some school board meetings in both districts.

Superintendent Scott Inskeep said Kettering is partnering with Rite Aid to hold COVID-19 vaccine clinics on Nov. 13 and Dec. 4.

“It makes sense to revisit our mask mandate and to consider the possibility of returning to ‘parental choice’ for mask wearing,” Inskeep said. For now, masks are required in all classrooms.

“I anticipate that I will be making a decision as to whether we will change our mask mandate when students and staff return to school after winter break,” Inskeep added.

Centerville, meanwhile, requires masks be worn by all in its facilities.

The district is “continuing to discuss our health and safety protocols as vaccine access is expanded,” spokeswoman Sarah Swan said.

Two longtime Centerville board members offered slightly different views on the policy as the district moves forward.

“As it stands now, I think it deserves re-evaluation,” John Doll said. “The numbers are going down. We still have a lot of kids across the state and across this area getting COVID. But I believe that it deserves — and the administration has already indicated that it deserves — a re-evaluation as it stands right now.

“Whether that means a change immediately or a change soon, I can’t tell you that,” Doll added. “But it certainly deserves a re-evaluation. And we told the community we would do that at the appropriate time.”

The district is “continually re-evaluating based on what is going on locally” while following national and local public health guidelines, said Dr. David Roer, a pediatrician and school board member. “And we’ll make decisions based on what is going forward and going on right now,” he added.

Here are the area schools that reported at least five new coronavirus cases last week to the Ohio Department of Health.

SchoolNew student casesCumulative student casesNew Staff casesCumulative staff casesTotal new cases
Lebanon City1925653024
Fairborn City 1633974723
Dayton City1624878723
Beavercreek City1440217615
Springboro Community City1028344114
Xenia Community City1028524612
Miamisburg City1019402410
Mad River Local98411710
Carlisle Local811621210
Huber Heights City716833110
Greene County Vocational School District6563109
Troy City62313209
Franklin City61622298
Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local51493218
West Carrollton City51083188
Tipp City Exempted Village71030107
Miami Valley Career Tech7880117
Northmont City72420367
Warren County Vocational School630006
Centerville City52351306
Kettering City School District52701186
Bethel Local5650105
Piqua City51190235
Miami East Local543065
Troy Christian High School410125
Vandalia-Butler City4681155
Total in our area250539959833309

Staff Writers Nancy Bowman, Aimee Hancock and Eric Schwartzberg contributed to this report.