Kettering joins Lebanon in changing school mask policy

Lebanon City Schools requires face coverings in most situations for anyone on school grounds.
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Lebanon City Schools requires face coverings in most situations for anyone on school grounds.

The Kettering and Lebanon school districts both announced that they are strengthening their mask requirements for August’s return to school.

In a letter to parents Wednesday, Kettering school officials said they “will now mandate the wearing of face coverings by anyone in our schools. ... Exceptions to the face-covering mandate will include children younger than grade 3, individuals who have trouble breathing and anyone who is unable to remove the face covering without assistance.”

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The Lebanon Board of Education also approved a policy to require “all students, staff, and visitors to wear a face covering at most times during the school day,” according to Superintendent Todd Yohey.

The changes come after Kettering and Lebanon schools announced less stringent rules in previous weeks, as they attempt a safe return to school buildings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday extended a mask-wearing order to all Ohio counties, but state mask orders have said K-12 schools should follow the back-to-school guidelines set forth by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Health.

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Those ODE/ODH guidelines say only that “schools must establish a face mask policy,” and “strongly recommends” masks for student in third grade and up.

Both Kettering and Lebanon schools are now offering parents a chance to change their enrollment option, in case the new mask rule changes whether they want to physically send their children to school or do their education online.

Kettering schools are extending parents’ deadline to submit their return-to-school survey to July 29, “to give parents the chance to read through the FAQs and the new face-covering policy before making a decision.”

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In Lebanon, student face coverings can be a mask, face shield or neck gaiter. The policy has no age-based exception for K-12 students, but says exceptions may be made for people who have trouble breathing, who are unable to remove the mask by themselves or who have received district approval.

Parents who would like to change their return-to-school option should visit the district’s website at lebanonschools.org, click the Reopening Fall 2020 link, and complete the “I Want to Change my Student’s Option” form.

“Students will be provided with opportunities to remove their face coverings throughout the day,” a new Lebanon schools statement said. “Opportunities to remove face coverings will include recess, lunch, outdoor instruction, and scheduled times throughout the day for teachers to take classes outside or to larger space areas in the school where students can distance.”