OHIO — Concerns over the delta variant and the rise in cases in Ohio are prompting college and K-12 school officials to announce new mask guidance for the upcoming school year. 

Over the past few weeks, many organizations, hospitals and health departments have released recommendations for schools to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

The Ohio Department of Health recommends unvaccinated students and staff to wear masks, and those vaccinated should wear masks in public spaces where crowds are present or where social distancing isn't possible. 

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as local health departments are pushing for universal masking, meaning everyone wears them regardless of vaccination status. 

Some colleges are even offering incentives to try and get people vaccinated. 

Spectrum News 1 is tracking updates from major school districts and colleges in the state. Here's what you need to know about their COVID-19 policies:


Ohio State University

Ohio State University is taking a different approach than most higher education institutions in the state.

Students and staff must report their vaccination status by Aug. 5. For those who are not vaccinated, they will undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. 

Ohio State's campus. (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)

Students moving in on-campus will also be tested seven days before move in and again on move-in day.

Vaccinated individuals will not be required to wear masks except on public transportation, at the Wexner Medical Center and in Student Health facilities. Unvaccinated students will be asked to wear masks indoors and to maintain social distancing. 

Once House Bill 244 goes into effect in October, which prohibits schools from requiring vaccines that haven't been fully approved and bars them from discriminating based on vaccination status, all students will be tested for COVID-19 and not just unvaccinated individuals. 

Cleveland State University

All students living on campus will need to be vaccinated before move-in day on Aug. 15. 

Vaccinated individuals will not need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors. Unvaccinated students and staff are being asked to wear a mask indoors and when social distancing isn't attainable. 

Kent State University

School officials said they're following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and urging all students and staff — regardless of vaccination status — to wear masks. 

The university plans to return to full capacity, in-person classes this fall. 

Ohio Wesleyan

(Photo by Paul Vernon via Ohio Wesleyan)

The school is among the many private institutions in the state mandating everyone on campus gets vaccinated. 

It's offering 50 new students, whether incoming or transfers, a $25,000 renewable scholarship if they're vaccinated. 

The students must apply to the school's fast-track program first by Aug. 9 in order to be considered for the funds.

Kenyon College

The private liberal arts college is mandating all students to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccinated people won't need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors, but unvaccinated employees and visitors are being asked to wear one and practice social distancing. 

Bowling Green State University

Bowling Green said vaccinated individuals don't need to wear masks unless they are indoors with a large crowd or in a group of 10 people or more. Unvaccinated individuals are being asked to wear a mask both indoors and outdoors, or where other individuals are present. 

Vaccinations are being encouraged, but the university isn't mandating them at this time. 

University of Cincinnati

The school is asking students and staff to get vaccinated, but isn't mandating it.

Vaccinated individuals don't need to wear masks, but unvaccinated individuals should wear masks on campus and social distance. 

University of Dayton

Unvaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to wear masks, and according to the school's policies, students don't need to wear masks unless in health care settings or transportation.

Vaccinations are encouraged but are not mandated. 

Youngstown State University

Unvaccinated individuals are being asked to wear masks whereas vaccinated students don't need to. 

The vaccines are not required, but are encouraged. 

University of Akron

Fully vaccinated students and staff won't need to wear masks unless they are on campus transportation or inside Health Services as well as the Speech and Audiology department. 

Unvaccinated individuals are being asked to wear masks on campus. 

COVID-19 vaccines aren't required, but they are strongly encouraged.

K-12 School Districts

Columbus City Schools

The state’s largest school district will require students to wear masks in the fall.

Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said the spread of the more contagious delta variant makes masking the right move for the city’s schools

Ohio schools are revising their mask policies ahead of the upcoming school year. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel/File)

Cleveland Metropolitan School District

Cleveland Metropolitan students and staff will be required to wear masks for at least the first five weeks of school.

CEO Eric Gordon explained the district came to its decision because new legislation in Ohio requires equal treatment of unvaccinated and vaccinated students. 

Akron City Schools

The district is requiring all students, staff and visitors to wear masks during the school year regardless of vaccination status. 

Masks won't be enforced outside and class sizes will be reduced to practice social distancing.

Pickerington City Schools

The district is making masks optional for students and staff, but strongly recommends unvaccinated individuals to wear them.

Policies could be modified or adapted as the year progresses, the district said.

Cincinnati Public Schools

The Cincinnati Board of Education discussed masking for the upcoming school year during a meeting a few weeks ago.

The district's health and safety committee is recommending that indoor mask requirements remain in effect when students return to classrooms in the fall until a higher student vaccination rate is reached, said Sarah Trimble-Oliver, chief strategy officer. 

During the meeting, Trimble-Oliver presented the latest CDC and AAP recommendations to the board, as well as the implications of the recently passed legislation that prevents discrimination based on vaccination status.

The policy has not been finalized as it is pending further discussion by a committee. 


Toledo Public Schools

Toledo Public Schools officials announced that masks will be optional in its high schools but required for younger age groups.

The decision was made because a majority of students in pre-K through eighth grade are not eligible to receive a vaccine.

The district said masks are “strongly recommended for high school students and staff members, especially those who have not yet been vaccinated or are not eligible yet for the vaccine.”

Centerville City Schools

Masks will not be required after the Centerville Board of Education repealed its mask requirement.

“Face masks will be welcome, but it will now be your decision whether to have your child wear one at school,” Superintendent Dr. Tom Henderson said in a statement.

Dayton Public Schools

The school district lifted its mask mandate on July 1, while continuing to recommend masks for students and staff who have not been vaccinated.

There hasn't been an update to the school's policy as of July 30.

Hilliard City Schools

The district is still working on finalizing a plan, but school officials announced students will be required to wear masks on buses. 

At a school board meeting earlier this month, members reviewed policy changes that would turn the district’s mask requirement into a recommendation, a spokesperson for the district said. 

“As of this time though, no final decisions have been made for the opening of school,” spokesperson Stacie Raterman told Spectrum News last week.

If the new policy is approved, Raterman said it will acknowledge that the district must comply with all local, state and federal health requirements.

schools masks
Mask mandates will be in place in a number of Ohio districts this fall as COVID-19 cases rise.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)


Dublin City Schools

Masks have been optional but recommended for unvaccinated students in Dublin since June 2, the date when most of the state’s COVID-19 health orders ended.

When the mandate was lifted, the district said it expected that policy to continue into the 2021 school year, subject to changing virus conditions. 

Superintendent John Marschhausen released a statement last week, saying the school district is still deciding on plans for the fall.

"We know everyone is anxious to receive information regarding the 2021-22 school year. We appreciate your patience as we work through the details. We want to make sure we are able to make the best and most informed decisions for the benefit of our students, staff, and community. We will continue to provide you with updated information as soon as it is available," wrote Marshhausen.

Fairfield City Schools

Fairfield City Schools is requiring masks for the upcoming school year. 

Based on recommendations from the CDC, all students, staff and visitors must wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. 

Pete Grieve contributed to this report.