by J.D. Davidson
Ohio’s largest school district will require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks inside buildings and on buses this fall, but an Ohio lawmaker has introduced a bill that prohibits schools from requiring masks.
The Columbus City Schools Board of Education said in a news release it relied on recommendations from The American Academy of Pediatrics and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with talks with Columbus Public Health, to reach the decision.
“Safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall is a priority, and masks provide and extra layer of protection in reducing transmission of the COVID-19 virus,” Superintendent Talisa Dixon said Wednesday in a news release. “Throughout this pandemic, we have relied on the guidance of our public health officials. We feel that this was the best decision for our district and community.”
The board also decided the school system will not use water fountains in buildings and will keep 3 feet of social distancing when possible, and visitors will be restricted to parents and student support partners. Sports activities, practices and extracurricular activities also will follow the health and safety guidelines.
“This pandemic is not over and case numbers are rising again because of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in our community.” Columbus Health Commissioner Mysheika Roberts said in a statement. “Kids need to be in the classroom where they can learn and thrive and masks are an important tool for protecting staff and students who are too young to get vaccinated.”
Senate Bill 209, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware, would stop the state board of education, the department of education and local school districts from requiring masks to attend or participate in in-person instruction, school-sponsored athletics, other school-sponsored extracurricular activities or being anywhere on school grounds.
Ohio lawmakers remain on break until September. Brenner’s bill, which was introduced July 13, has not been assigned to a committee. If it moved quickly through the Senate and House and was signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, it likely would not become law until the end of 2021.
DeWine signed the state budget in early July. It included an amendment that does not allow public schools, colleges or universities to require vaccines for students, faculty or staff.
Ohio’s COVID-19 cases stood at 147 new cases reported June 28 with a seven-day average of 260 cases. On July 19, 660 new cases were reported with the seven-day average jumping to 468 cases.
– – –
An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is regional editor for The Center Square.