Mask rules for Lakota school reopening draw both praise, criticism

Lakota Schools’ recent decision to require all of its 16,800 students to wear masks when classes resume next month under the threat of the coronavirus has school parents and residents talking.

Lakota officials unveiled their back-to-school plans earlier this week and so far the district, which covers West Chester and Liberty townships, is the only one in Butler County to have tentative plans requiring students to wear masks.

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Other public school districts in the county are urging their students to wear masks when classes resume in August.

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Lakota officials said students will only have to wear the masks if they are within the six-foot, safe social distancing zone recommended by health officials.

But some in the district said it was an unrealistic expectation for students.

“It’s ridiculous to think children will wear masks all day, much less wear them effectively. Good luck with that, Lakota,” said school parent Kristina Gray Binder on social media.

But fellow Lakota school parent Katie Kruger posted “I’m happy with this decision.”

“Let’s all do our part to keep everyone protected during an uncertain time. I personally have a medically fragile kid at home so I appreciate anyone who takes measures to keep the public safe with something as simple as wearing a mask and hand washing,” wrote Kruger.

Sarah Fletcher Goshorn wrote that “it’s the new normal. We follow the same protocol at work regarding wearing masks and the six-foot-rule rule, so I would expect nothing less at schools.”

And during the recent school board meeting, which was held online as a coronavirus precaution with the public asking questions digitally, a Lakota school resident identifying himself as Evan Thomas criticized the plan.

“Children wearing them (masks) all day will be a disaster,” said Thomas.

But masks are the safest way to go, said Matt Miller, superintendent of Lakota.

Miller stressed repeatedly during his presentation to school board members that masks drastically cut the likelihood of coronavirus transmission.

He also said any back-to-school plans made public now will likely have to undergo revisions prior to Lakota re-opening its 22 school buildings based on upcoming state directives from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine as well as subsequent state and local health orders in the coming weeks.

If students are six feet apart, they will not need to wear a mask. Additionally, mask breaks will be given during the day, according to Lakota officials.

“We have spoken to health officials at Butler County, as well as an infectious disease expert from UC West Chester,” said Miller. “Based on their recommendations, we will require face masks to be worn when students and staff are less than six feet apart.”

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