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Columbus City Schools Will Require Masks For All To Start School Year

Masks will be required on buses and in buildings when Columbus City Schools returns to in-person instruction for the upcoming school year.

All students, staff and visitors must be masked, whether they are vaccinated or not.Following a recommendation for universal masking from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Superintendent Talisa Dixon calls masks "an extra layer of protection in reducing transmission".

In addition, a 3-foot social distance between students will be required where practical, water fountains will not be used, and visitors will be limited to parents, guardians and the district's support partners.

Sports practices, games, and extracurricular activities including marching band and drill teams will return, in accordance with health and safety guidelines.

This spring Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts encouraged a return to in-person instruction, saying students benefited from the interaction. But with the numbers of cases rising in recent weeks, and a low rate of vaccination in some areas, she also sees masks as a tool to protect students who are too young to be vaccinated.

Some Columbus students can apply for an exemption to the mask policy. According to the district's website, those include:

  • - a child that cannot remove a mask themselves,
  • - a child with a facial deformity that causes a breathing obstruction,
  • - a child with severe autism or developmental delay who would become agitated or anxious wearing a mask, or
  • - a child undergoing treatment for a significant behavioral or psychological issues that would be made worse by wearing a mask.

In those cases, the student would have to have an exemption form on file, completed by a medical provider. Asthma, allergies or sinus infections will not be considered reasons to not wear a mask.

A bill introduced in the Ohio Senate this month would prohibit public schools and universities from mandating masks, but if it passes it would not go into effect before the start of the school year. The Legislature will not vote proposals before September, and any legislation approved would not go into effect for 90 days.

Earlier this week, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District announced all students and staff must wear masks, for at least the first five weeks of the school year, but many other districts are still considering options.

Columbus City School students return to classrooms August 26th. Woodcrest Elementary, the district's only year-round school, starts next Thursday, July 29th.

A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.
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