Feds drop school bus masks orders, area districts quickly adopt

Fairfield school parent Carri Mefford echoed many families across the region this week as local school systems dropped mandatory student masks on school buses.

Prompted by last week’s announcement by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials, removing a federal transportation department mask mandate in place since the beginning of the 2020 school year, area school buses now have an optional student mask policy.

And this week that gave Mefford’s four, school-age children a reason to flash smiles uncovered by facial protection during their bus rides.

“They (children) were really glad that they don’t have to wear them,” she said. “We were all pretty happy about it and it’s a relief to move on finally.”

Student bus riders still have the option to wear masks if they or their parents prefer.

For Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools, the move away from mandatory masks to recommended masking on buses is encouraging.

“The updated guidance from the CDC is a step closer to bringing a sense of normalcy to our students and drivers who have been complying with the mask mandate on the school bus,” said Gentry-Fletcher.

“While as a district we still recommend the wearing of facial coverings by students and staff, we are encouraged by this latest action by health officials.”

Matt Miller, superintendent of the 17,000-student Lakota Schools, told school families in his district: “Effective immediately, Lakota Schools will recommend that masks be worn on buses, but not require them.”

“This aligns with the protocols that have been in place at our buildings since the end of October,” wrote Miller in an announcement sent to parents.

“Our (COVID-19) positive numbers continue to decline,” he said. “Last week, only 14 positive student cases were reported, compared to over 560 the week of Jan. 18.”

“We understand that our parents have very strong feelings on both sides of the mask issue. We also understand that our parents want to make the decision that works best for their children and families. This change in the order from the CDC allows our families to do just that for all parts of the school day.”

Jonathan Cooper, superintendent of Mason Schools, jumped into an empty school bus and was featured in a recent, short video message to school families touting the relaxing of federally mandated masks during transporting to and from schools.

Cooper said the district, which is the largest in Warren County, has also moved from “strongly recommended” student masking to “optional” on the school bus and elsewhere in the schools.

“Obviously, if you need to wear a mask for personal reasons, we will always honor that,” he said.

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