COLUMBUS, Ohio — As of Wednesday, Ohio’s 15 largest school districts are requiring masks for at least some of their students.
What You Need To Know
- Schools have adjusted their COVID-19 policies in response to rising COVID-19 numbers
- As of Wednesday, the largest school districts in Ohio all have mask mandates in place
- Some districts are only requiring masks for younger students who can't be vaccinated
In recent days and weeks, some Ohio school districts that were planning for a fall without masks have reversed course, implementing requirements in response to rising COVID-19 numbers.
On Wednesday, a mask mandate for K-6 students went into effect for the first day of school in the South-Western City School District following an announcement Friday from Superintendent Bill Wise.
“Watching the rapid increases in cases, monitoring our neighboring school districts that have already started school, and reviewing the updated quarantine protocols from the Ohio Department of Health, we have reevaluated our masking protocols for buildings in which students are not eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19,” Wise wrote to families.
During the second week of classes, a universal-mask mandate took effect for Worthington City Schools on Wednesday. The Worthington Board of Education voted Monday to reinstate the requirement.
In a letter Wednesday, Worthington Superintendent Trent Bowers acknowledged the strife in the community over masks, asking for civility and understanding.
“It will be easy to be critical of something. It’s harder to balance the competing interests of physical safety, student learning, experience and social interaction,” Bowers said. “I’m saddened by people being labeled as for, or against something, or on one team, or another.”
On Monday, Olentangy Local Schools also began requiring masks for all students except high schoolers. The district announced the mask mandate on Friday, the second day of the school year.
The three announcements came after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called for unvaccinated students to be masked in school during an Aug. 17 address, which was a response to the surge in COVID-19 numbers and the spread of the delta variant.
In the time since, the pandemic has only continued to worsen, as seven-day average infections rose to 3,481 after Wednesday’s report of 4,600 new cases, the highest daily report since January.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended universal masking in schools since July 27.
The urban school districts in Ohio’s six largest cities — Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron and Dayton — each have universal mask mandates in place.
In July, Columbus City Schools, Cleveland Metropolitan Schools and Akron City Schools implemented universal mandates. In the first two weeks of August, Cincinnati Public Schools, Dayton Public Schools and Toledo City Schools followed suit, announcing universal mask mandates for their students.
The other six largest districts are requiring that younger students wear masks, but leaving the decision optional for older grade levels.
While upper grade level students in these districts do not have to be vaccinated to forgo masks, students who are unvaccinated and unmasked are subject to more strict-quarantine policy.
Due to a new law signed in July that could limit schools’ ability to discriminate based on vaccination status when it takes effect in October, Ohio districts have steered clear of policies that would mandate face coverings for unvaccinated students, while letting vaccinated students go to school without masks.
Instead, some districts opted to let masks be optional for upper grade levels where more students are eligible for vaccination.
Masks are now required up through sixth grade for South-Western, Mason City Schools, Pickerington Local Schools and Hilliard City Schools. Olentangy and Dublin City Schools are requiring masks through eighth grade.
Dublin Superintendent John Marschhausen, during a board meeting Monday, shared that the district received 690 mask exemption forms — 6% of the district’s K-8 population.
With the mask mandate in place, Marschhausen said there will be fewer quarantines, but he said he remains concerned about exposures during lunch when students need to take off their masks.