I-Team Investigation: Student Mask Plans

Weeks after Gov. Mike DeWine mandated each Ohio school district develop a face covering policy before the school year starts, a News Center 7 I-Team investigation revealed Most Miami Valley school districts are still developing their student mask policies.

For those Miami Valley districts that have determined how their students will return to the classroom, the I-Team's Katy Andersen found a common student mask theme.

Like many Miami Valley families, Courtney Freeman and Patty Sullivan have different views on what the upcoming school year should look like when their children return to the classroom.

“I really want the normalcy,” Freeman said. “We don’t believe in masks. We believe in interaction.”

“I am very pro masks,” Sullivan said. “I don’t want [children] to miss out on the learning they need to have.”

On July 2, DeWine announced school reopening guidelines. Part of the governor’s face covering requirements includes all teachers and staff wearing face masks. The governor also recommended students third grade and older wear a face mask unless they have a medical or developmental reason.

“This approach allows schools to adjust their rules as to what’s best for them, to create a safe environment, and one that will protect students and staff from the spread of COVID-19,” DeWine said.

The I-team requested more than 50 Miami Valley school districts student mask plans. As of this story’s reporting, most school leaders were still outlining policies and planned to release guidelines within the coming weeks.

Of the 14 area school districts that have released plans, most are recommending, but not requiring, students wear masks. Only Dayton and Yellow Springs school district leaders will require students to wear classroom masks.

Huber Heights City Schools, were both Freeman and Sullivan’s children attend, is one of those 14 districts.

On Thurs., Superintendent Mario Basora made public Huber Heights’ return to school policy. It requires students wear masks on buses and in common areas, but does not requiring classroom masks. However, Basora told the I-Team if there is COVID-19 spread within the district, leaders reserve the right to institute a classroom mask requirement.

Sullivan said her three children, Paxton, Cienna, and Marshall, have embraced wearing masks once they return to Monicello Elementary.

“As soon as I explained why we wear a mask, the [children] were on board with it,” Sullivan said. “Once they learned it was for other people, to keep other people safe in case we are carrying the coronavirus, they were on board with it and they understood that.”

But Freeman, whose fourth grader Sarah and rising kindergartner Nathan attend Valley Forge Elementary, worries about masks hurting their social interaction and spreading germs.

“I do worry that masks will be gathering bacteria with the colds and illnesses that generally just come from cold weather and stuff,” Freeman said. “So, it’s going to create more of an issue when they keep touching their masks like you see adults do.”

Unless you have a medical condition, Kettering Medical Center Dr. Jeffrey Weinstein said most mask illness and adverse reaction concerns are common misconceptions.

“It’s certainly more sanitary to touch your mask than it is to touch your nose or mouth,” Dr. Weinstein said. “It does not reduce your oxygenation levels. It does not increase carbon dioxide that builds up in your blood if you are a healthy child or adult.”

With COVID-19 one of so many things these two families must worry about as they prepare their kids to reenter the classroom during a pandemic, they just want their kids to be kids. They will now watch to see how that works with mask requirements.

The News Center 7 I-Team has requested all Miami Valley school districts fall semester mask policies and guidelines, and will update the information as it is released.

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