The Lebanon City Schools board voted Monday night to end its temporary mask mandate next Monday and return to an optional masking policy.
The district is two weeks into the three-week mandate implemented in late August when more than 900 students were involved in quarantine.
Two weeks ago, when the district implemented the mask mandate, the district had more than 430 students in quarantine. The week after mandatory masking went into effect, that number dropped to 50.
“Masking has allowed us to have some sort of continuity in our education this week,” Lebanon’s superintendent, Isaac Seevers said. “And we have far fewer students impacted by every positive case as a result.”
The mask mandate will drop roughly around the time the district plans to unroll a new pilot program that will be launched in schools in Warren County, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Health.
The pilot program, proposed earlier in September, would implement new quarantine procedures in which students found in close contact with a positive case would be allowed to stay in class with additional testing measures rather than quarantine at home.
Schools would provide the additional COVID testing under the modified plan for free. Parents or guardians also would need to decide whether to have their students participate in the pilot program.
Some parents already have expressed interest in homeschooling options if the district returns to not requiring masks.
“I’m really questioning why did I send my kids back in?” said Veronica Strevel. “Am I now putting myself in severe physical health risks as well as my children so they can have the opportunity to have face-to-face education?”
Strevel said she’s at a high risk for complications for COVID-19, and so is one of her children. Other parents expressed interest in having the choice.
“I think voluntarily is the best answer, because, like I said, you’re going to get kids that don’t wear it properly all the time,” said Scott Stiles, a district parent.