“As a teacher, I think it would be irresponsible of us as a board and as a district to unmask right now,” Bartley said.
Gretch noted that most student exposures happen outside of school and cited the psychological effect of children wearing masks.
Superintendent Gabriel Lofton added that if the district were to unmask immediately, the district has no plan to address a wave of increased cases, contact tracing, and other requirements among staff and students.
“If we remove masks, we would have to do an inordinate amount of contact tracing,” Lofton said. “My administrators, my staff would have to do that. I think it would be irresponsible, and quite frankly reckless to unmask at this point in time when we know what’s happening across the country. I’m not saying at some point we shouldn’t unmask, but now is not the time.”
Xenia operates under Ohio’s “Mask to Stay, Test to Play” policy, in which students who have been exposed to COVID-19 may stay in school if they don’t show symptoms and wear a mask for 10 days after their last date of exposure (regardless of any previous exemption). But in Xenia’s case these mostly apply to quarantines and keeping kids learning in-person.
“Unmasking would be the quickest way to remote learning,” Lofton said.
The vote to reinstate mask exemptions was also passed 3-2, with Day, Gretch and Leightenheimer in favor, and Bartley and Callahan against. The board will reconsider lifting the mask mandate next month.