Middletown Schools preview: Many COVID precautions remain in place, but some optional

Middletown City Schools superintendent Marlon Styles, Jr. - shown here at a press conference in May - went on Facebook Live Tuesday to give school families a preview of what the coming school year, which begins Aug. 12 for some of the 6,300 students, will be like as the coronavirus pandemic continues. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
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Middletown City Schools superintendent Marlon Styles, Jr. - shown here at a press conference in May - went on Facebook Live Tuesday to give school families a preview of what the coming school year, which begins Aug. 12 for some of the 6,300 students, will be like as the coronavirus pandemic continues. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Masks a choice, but recommended by ODH for those who are unvaccinated; students encouraged to bring water bottles.

When thousands of students return to the classroom in Middletown Schools next month they will see many of the same coronavirus precautions they experienced last school year.

But protective masks will be optional — per recent edicts from state health officials — for students, said Middletown Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. during a Facebook Live presentation Tuesday previewing the coming school year.

“Our position for next school year is masks are optional. You can decide as a family, but it is your personal or family decision,” said Styles.

While masks for students is a statewide option, the leader of the 6,300-student city schools stressed that Ohio Department of Health officials have recommended masks for students who have not yet been vaccinated for the coronavirus and its variants.

“I feel really good about our (coronavirus prevention) protocols opening up the new school year (and) when school begins we will be following many of the protocols that were in place last year but with some changes as well,” said Styles.

Though masks are optional for students, they remain mandatory on school buses, per orders from state health officials.

Surface cleaning in the district’s 10 schools and school buses will remain a priority, he said.

Masks for students who want them will be provided and hand sanitation stations will again be available in each school building.

Students are also encouraged to bring water bottles to school as water fountains will remain closed as they were through the entire last school year. Schools will provide water bottle filling stations for students.

Another pandemic rule will continue to apply when Middletown begins a staggered class opening based on the first letter of a student’s last name with its first day on Aug. 12.

“We encourage our families that if your children are sick, please keep them home. Our best chance of keeping everyone in the school buildings — and keeping us open — is to make sure we prevent illness and any potential COVID-19 spread coming in,” said Styles.

State health officials earlier this week said their guidance acknowledges that children are less likely to become severely ill from COVID-19, it noted children can still get sick, spread the virus to others and suffer severe health issues.

ExploreOhio releases updated COVID guidance for K-12 schools; vaccines, masks recommended

In addition to masks and vaccines, the guidance encourages districts to improve ventilation and bring in outdoor air as much as possible. Ohio Chief Medical Officer Bruce Vanderhoff encouraged schools to hold lessons outdoors and take students outside to play when possible.

“COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that is highly transmissible by air,” the guidance read. “Improving ventilation is a critical intervention that can help slow the spread of the virus.”

Styles said more than 400 Middletown school families have signed up to avoid in-person classes and instead learn virtually from home.

For more information on Middletown Schools’ coming return to classes go to the district’s website.

School families in other districts – or whose children attend private schools – are urged to get similar information from their local district or school websites.