“We want our students to stay in school, in person,” wrote Lakota Schools Superintendent Matt Miller in a statement sent to school parents.
“Medical professionals have shared with us that masks add an extra layer of protection, even for vaccinated individuals. By requiring face coverings, our staff and students will not only help protect one another from spreading the virus, but they will also be able to stay in school and avoid quarantine if they are identified as a close contact to a positive case,” said Miller.
He said the decision, which follows last week’s rare joint public plea by area city and county health officials for mandatory masking of all school children, is “based on the advice of medical experts, the increasing numbers of positive COVID cases among children in our county and stringent in-school quarantine protocols.”
Miller also cited the results of a recent school parent survey by Lakota on the issue of masking.
“We understand that requiring versus strongly recommending face coverings in school is a very controversial topic. In fact, the survey results confirm this.”
“With over 6,800 responses from parents and students: 49% believe that face coverings should be optional for all grades; 48% believe that face coverings should be required for all or some grades: 33% believe that face coverings should be required for all grades; 15% believe that face coverings should be required for grades K-6 and optional for grades 7-12 and 3% are unsure.”
Masks for students on school buses was already a mandated policy for Lakota and all other Ohio public school buses.
Lakota now joins the region’s largest school district, Cincinnati Public Schools, in requiring masks be worn indoors by all students, teachers and staffers. Other area districts are expected to also soon switch from an optional mask policy to a mandatory one.
“We know that our parents want what is best for their own children. So do we. Please discuss any possible medical exemptions for face coverings with your building administrator,” said Miller.
“We will closely monitor the numbers of positive COVID cases in our schools and our community, and will adjust our protocols, including face coverings, as needed.”
Miller added: “We want our students to stay in school. We want to limit exposure to COVID-19. We do not want to quarantine close contacts. In order to do this, we need to mask up.”
Mason Schools Spokeswoman Tracey Carson released a statement shortly after Lakota’s announcement stating the district will require masks for students in grades pre-kindergarten through 6th.
“Masks provide a layer of protection that help keep students safe and out of quarantine. In alignment with our public health experts, we strongly recommend that middle school and high school students wear masks while indoors, particularly for those who are unvaccinated,” said Carson.
The new policy will impact 5,050 Mason students in pre-K to 6th grades.
“Mason Middle School and Mason High School will not mandate masks unless there are rising levels of positive cases and subsequent quarantines that would necessitate making mask-wearing a requirement,” she said.