The Worthington Board of Education has voted to affirm my recommendation to move away from our current indoor mask mandate to language that states “masks are strongly encouraged” beginning on Monday, February 28th.
We know that any change of this magnitude will be welcome by some and will cause concern for others. We have many primary age students who have never been to school in Worthington without a mask on. For most of the past two years, masks have been part of our schooling experience for all students and staff.
With this change we want all families to make the choice that you believe is best for your child while recognizing that others may feel differently than you do. It’s important that we respect one another’s choices and work with our children to help them respect the choices of others.
It should be noted that the board felt very strongly about respecting the choices of one another and added language to the resolution that says, “no person shall be subject to discipline, harassment, or other mistreatment for choosing to voluntarily wear a mask or for not wearing a mask where such use is either not required or an exception applies.”
Because these choices will be challenging for our students, our staff will intentionally work with students so they know that at this point in the pandemic we believe either decision to be an appropriate one. No one will pass judgment on their masking decision.
There are still times where masking will still be required:
Students and staff returning to school after a COVID positive or close contact absence will still need to follow the Ohio Public Health’s recommended guidance that states that, regardless of symptoms or vaccination status, a person must wear a mask for five days.
Furthermore, other mitigation strategies such as distancing at elementary lunch, enhanced cleaning protocols, handwashing, promoting vaccination and contact tracing will continue. As COVID numbers continue to recede we will re-evaluate these measures. Schools will have surgical masks and limited supplies of child-size KN95 masks for those who would like to utilize them.
The last few years have been incredibly challenging for all of us. This doesn’t move us back to normal but instead moves us into another new phase of pandemic schooling. I’m hopeful that we’re close to the end but it’s possible that things may shift again and in doing so we’d need to reinstate restrictions. It’s impossible to predict the future. Regardless of what is in front of us, we can meet it with mutual respect and care for all of those around us.