Hamilton City Schools change quarantine and mask rules, following state’s lead

The Hamilton City School District has changed its policies for quarantines of students and the wearing of masks, following the latest guidance from the Ohio Department of Health in the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter the district posted Tuesday on Facebook, Superintendent Michael Holbrook detailed the changes. School districts across Ohio are making changes or evaluating the ODH recommendations to determine what policies they will have.

The latest guidelines, based partly on a test program in Warren County, focus on students and staff exposed to the virus wearing face masks and getting tested to allow them to continue with classroom learning and school-related extracurriculars. The changes apply to preschool through high school.

Among the district’s changes, which take effect today:

  • All students and employees now will be “strongly recommended” to wear face coverings indoors, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated. This is a downgrade from “mandatory” mask wearing. On buses, however, masks will remain mandatory.
  • Staff or students who were exposed to COVID-19 at school, or during school activities — not elsewhere — can remain in school if they wear a mask for 14 days after their last date of exposure; if they are monitored for COVID-19 symptoms; and if they isolate and get tested if they experience any disease symptoms.
  • Students can participate in extra-curricular activities if they show no symptoms; mask whenever possible, such as in locker rooms or on the sidelines; test for COVID after their initial exposure and then 5-7 days later. If they test negative at that point, they can leave quarantine.

The COVID tests must be monitored, and cannot be over-the-counter tests. As conditions change, the district may make further changes to the policies, the superintendent wrote.

Holbrook thanked parents, guardians and students for their understanding in recent weeks, saying the more stringent policies that were in place allowed “over 800 students that would have been quarantined to attend school safely and regularly.”

“Quarantining students at home exposed to COVID-19 in a school environment,” he added, “has the unintended consequence of reducing in-school learning and can strain parents, schools, and local health departments.”

The new state guidelines were based partly on a Warren County pilot program and others nationally that health officials believe kept more people healthy students in classrooms. Those studies found low instances of COVID spread when precautions were followed.

Kristen Spicker and Jordan Laird contributed

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