Most Butler County districts keeping masks optional: Here are their policies

Area school leaders say they continue to closely work with local and county health officials as they report and monitor the overall rising numbers of coronavirus variant cases in Butler and Warren counties – as well as across Ohio. It’s literally a day-by-day situation of high vigilance, say Butler and Warren county  school officials. (File Photo\Journal-News)
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Area school leaders say they continue to closely work with local and county health officials as they report and monitor the overall rising numbers of coronavirus variant cases in Butler and Warren counties – as well as across Ohio. It’s literally a day-by-day situation of high vigilance, say Butler and Warren county school officials. (File Photo\Journal-News)

Most districts stick to making them optional, but officials call it a day-by-day situation.

Most area public schools are holding with their optional student mask policy – though some have recently switched to mandatory - as classes for many students go into the second week of the school year.

But all school leaders said they continue to closely work with local and county health officials as they report and monitor the overall rising numbers of coronavirus variant cases in Butler and Warren counties – as well as across Ohio.

It’s literally a day-by-day situation of high vigilance, said school officials.

“We are taking this one day at a time and taking it seriously,” said Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools.

“The stance we have is what we think is best for us today. That stance may change in a few days or weeks. It all depends on what the data tells us,” said Gentry Fletcher, referring to the regularly updated coronavirus dashboards on Fairfield’s and other school districts’ websites listing coronavirus infection cases among students and teachers and the numbers of each quarantined.

“At this time, we are staying with the optional use of facial coverings, but strongly recommend use by staff and students. We will closely monitor the data in our schools. We wouldn’t hesitate to change our stance if the data indicates a need to do so,” she said.

Other area school officials echoed the strategy but some, such as Butler County’s most populous district – the 16,800-student Lakota Schools – have switched to requiring all in its 22 school buildings to mask up.

It’s a policy designed to keep more students attending classes, said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for Lakota.

“Face coverings are required for all students and staff at Lakota Schools, unless a waiver has been approved by the building administrator. In addition to being strongly recommended by health professionals in our area and across the country, by requiring masks, more of our students are able to stay in school instead of being quarantined,” said Fuller.

Middletown Schools last week also switched from recommended to mandatory masks.

ExploreMiddletown Schools is second Butler County district to mandate masks

Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for Warren County’s largest district – Mason Schools – said mask requirements there are varied by grades.

“We require masks for students in grades PK-6, and it is strongly recommended for students in grades 7-12. All staff are required to wear a mask when they are within 6 feet of a student,” said Carson.

The adjacent Kings Schools has the same policy.

“We know masks are not perfect. They do not guarantee 100% protection; however, they do provide an additional layer in the overall mitigation strategy. We are committed to keeping kids safe and in school,” she said.

Dirk Allen, spokesman for Badin High School – Butler County’s only Catholic high school – said the current policy for its more than 600 students is “strongly recommended.”

The urging for masks is “particularly for those who are not vaccinated, but (masks) are not required at this time. We will adjust our mask policy as necessary as health circumstances warrant,” said Allen.

Ohio reported just over 3,000 daily cases of coronavirus Monday, with 3,091 cases recorded in the last day, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

ExploreOhio reports just over 3,000 daily COVID cases

After a week where the state surpassed 4,000 and 5,000 daily cases for the first time since the winter, the 3,091 cases are the fewest reported in a week.

Over the last 21 days the state is averaging 3,399 cases a day, according to ODH. In the last seven days the average is 4,460.

Policies vary per public school system and private schools and school officials from each recommend school families check district and school building websites – and be on watch for any announcements - for the latest on mask and quarantining policies for students.