Dayton schools spent $28K on face shields, then state banned them

Face shields wait to be assembled at MRL Medical, a Beavercreek defense contractor. Dayton Public Schools ordered the type of face shields that go on like a pair of eyeglasses. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF
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Face shields wait to be assembled at MRL Medical, a Beavercreek defense contractor. Dayton Public Schools ordered the type of face shields that go on like a pair of eyeglasses. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

DeWine said Aug. 4 that the state wouldn't micromanage the type of face covering schools used.

Dayton Public Schools officials are upset that the Ohio Department of Health on Saturday prohibited the use of face shields as a replacement for masks in schools, after the district already bought them.

DPS announced in June that it would order clear face shields for all students to wear while seated at their desks. Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the district spent $28,000 on the shields after receiving guidance that the using the shields would be acceptable.

ExploreJune story: Shields part of DPS' original back-to-school plan

DPS has since moved to a fully online model for at least the first quarter, and it is unclear what safety requirements will be in place whenever students return to school in person.

“It is extremely frustrating to receive messages one hour and then the next hour the message is changed,” Lolli said. “That has been happening throughout this whole summer. Districts prepare based on information we receive, trusting that the direction should be followed, so we follow it. Then it changes. Very frustrating.”

Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Melanie Amato said ODH is following CDC recommendations with the new face shield order. She did not answer a question about any previous guidance from ODH or ODE regarding face shields.

“At this time, it is not known what level of protection a face shield provides to people nearby from the spray of respiratory droplets from the wearer,” CDC documents say. “There is currently not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of face shields for source control.”

ExploreAug. 4 story: DeWine says masks mandatory in K-12 schools

The document from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association that Gov. Mike DeWine shared Aug. 4 in announcing Ohio’s K-12 school mask order repeatedly supports wearing a “face covering/mask.”

In his announcement, DeWine said there would be “great leeway” in the execution of the order. He said while doctors had told him shields may not be as effective, he acknowledged that some people might be more comfortable with a face shield.

“We’re not trying to micromanage this,” DeWine said Aug. 4. “The goal is to have the vast, vast majority of people in a room have some facial covering. I think the consensus in the medical community is let’s not nitpick … put something on.”

Many schools ordered computers, cleaning supplies and protective equipment early in the summer after hearing about supply chain problems that could delay deliveries.

ExploreThis week: State says face shields can't replace masks in schools

Lolli said Dayton Public Schools has had a large number of mask donations, adding that the district and its teachers union have also purchased masks for staff, who will still be interacting in school buildings.

DeWine said FEMA is also helping the state distribute 2 million masks to Ohio’s schools, which serve 1.7 million kids in K-12.

Lolli said DPS will not seek a refund on the face shields it has already bought and will find an alternative use for them.