Kettering, Troy schools moving to mask-optional policy after district’s winter break

KETTERING — Citing an increase in vaccination levels of school-aged children in the region, Kettering City Schools said masks will become optional for students and staff members when classes resume in January.

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A mask mandate had been in place within the school district since August. District Superintendent Scott Inskeep said the decision was always up to be revisited after COVID-19 vaccines became available for children aged between 5 and 11-years-old.

“When we put the mask mandate in place, I stated at the time that I would revisit this decision six weeks after the vaccine was available for 5-11-year-olds. Six weeks out will be December 17,” Inskeep said in a statement to News Center 7 Friday.

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“We have held vaccine clinics in partnership with Rite Aid for our young people, and Public Health Dayton Montgomery County is reporting that a high percentage of school-age children have been vaccinated,” he said.

And with the increase in vaccination levels, Inskeep said the district chose to loosen the mask policy.

“With all of this in mind, I feel that it is time to return to choice for our parents and guardians and to let them decide if their children will wear masks while in school, beginning when we return from Winter Break on January 3,” he said in the statement.

Inskeep added the policy will be subject to change based on what happens after students return to the classroom.

“Of course, the caveat to this decision is that if there is an outbreak of any kind in the schools, we can always look at returning to masking, if the situation warrants it.”

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Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper announced Friday afternoon that the district would also be removing their facemask requirement.

In a video to students and parents, Piper said that the district’s mask requirement would be terminated January 3. Similarly to Kettering Schools, Piper cited the available vaccinations for school-aged children.

“This timeline follows the ability of all school-aged children to be immunized if their parents so choose,” Piper said.

Masks will still be required on school buses, per federal regulation.

The district also updated their quarantine guidelines. Students who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive will have the option to quarantine at home or come to school and wear a mask, so long as they are asymptomatic.

The decision from the district comes as the Ohio Department of Health reported Thursday the current surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state is putting a “dangerous strain” on the state’s health care system.

We’ll continue to update this story as we learn more.