Middletown Schools reinstates mask requirement for students, staff

Middletown Schools said Tuesday they are returning to a mandatory mask policy for all students, teachers and school visitors in the wake of surging COVID-19 positive case numbers. The 6,300-student district, which resumes classes Thursday after winter break, will require everyone inside the district's 10 school buildings to wear a protective mask. (File Photo/Journal-News)

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Middletown Schools said Tuesday they are returning to a mandatory mask policy for all students, teachers and school visitors in the wake of surging COVID-19 positive case numbers. The 6,300-student district, which resumes classes Thursday after winter break, will require everyone inside the district's 10 school buildings to wear a protective mask. (File Photo/Journal-News)

One of Butler County’s largest school systems resumes classes this week while also reinstating a mandatory mask policy for all students, staff and visitors.

Middletown City Schools is the first local public school system to return to mandatory masks since Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s public plea in late December for all school districts to mask up in the wake of recent surging COVID-19 positive case numbers.

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School officials told the Journal-News on Tuesday the decision was prompted in part by a jump in teachers and other instructional staff testing positive for the virus.

From Dec. 13 to Dec. 20, six Middletown teachers and school staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

Officials said Tuesday that number has jumped to 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The announcement also comes after Ohio set a sixth consecutive daily record after coronavirus hospitalizations have increased daily since Christmas.

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But the main impetus, said city schools Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr., was the desire to keep the district’s 6,300 students learning in person in Middletown’s 10 school buildings.

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“Our Butler County health officials are sharing that the number of cases in our area is significantly high and my goal is to keep our students learning face to face inside our buildings,” Styles said.

“It is extremely important that we do everything we can to keep our students and staff healthy. Temporarily masking up during this surge is just one way we can help our students and staff.”

Classes are scheduled to start Thursday and as of Tuesday school officials said the return to mandatory masks, which was changed in October to “strongly recommended” mask policy, is scheduled to remain in place through Jan. 26.

At the beginning of the current school year some area districts saw some school parents complain and protest the then mandatory mask requirements that were relaxed to strongly recommended later in the fall prior to the current COVID-19 Omicron variant surge.

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Masks must be worn while indoors, said city school officials, who cited recommendations from the Middletown City Health Department and the Butler County Health Department.

“Teachers and staff will provide breaks for students to briefly remove their masks throughout the day. Students will not be required to wear masks outdoors,” said school officials.

“District and school leaders will continue to monitor guidance and recommendations from local, state and federal public health officials. The district will revisit this decision at the Jan. 24 (Middletown) Board of Education meeting,” they said.

Middletown school parents and guardians with any questions are asked to contact their children’s school principal, said district officials.

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