Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) will continue to require masks for students, staff, and visitors, the district announced Tuesday.
“While it was our hope to move from required masking to optional and encouraged later this month,” said WCHCS Superintendent Dr. Tom Bailey, “we stated that this decision could be postponed in the event of any change to the COVID-19 situation in our schools or community, as well as new guidance from local, state, and federal health organizations.”
The original mask mandate was slated to expire on Jan. 18, 2021, the district announced in December.
“After consultation with Fayette County Public Health-OHIO and based on the recommendation from the state’s medical experts, we are postponing the rescission of the district’s mask mandate, meaning face coverings will continue to be required while in all school facilities at this time,” explained Dr. Bailey.
On Dec. 28, 2021, Ohio schools received a joint letter from the Ohio Hospital Association and the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association urging schools who do not currently have a mask requirement to return to one. The letter included signatures from many major Ohio hospitals, including Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic.
“We recognize the importance of in-person learning for the cognitive, social, and emotional development of our children,” the joint letter stated, “and share your belief that the best place for kids is in school, full-time, in the classroom learning with their peers.”
“The best way to keep kids in school is to slow the spread of the virus. The best ways to slow the spread of the virus are to get vaccinated and wear a mask.”
In other parts of the country, where Omicron already has spread rapidly, pediatric hospitalizations have spiked. In New York City and the surrounding areas, pediatric hospitalizations jumped by 395% during December, according to the OHA and OCHA.
“Our healthcare system already is taxed, with one out of every four patients in the hospital with COVID-19,” the letter continues. “We’re fighting hard to save their lives, while treating other Ohioans who need our help, like children with broken bones, people suffering from strokes, or those needing emergency care after a car accident.”
“We can’t do this alone. With Omicron spreading quickly through Ohio, we need everyone’s help to make it through the coming weeks. Please help us by requiring students to wear masks when they return to school.”
The district’s announcement of the mask mandate extension came the same day the students returned to school from winter break.
“WCHCS will continue to work closely with Fayette County Public Health, the Ohio Department of Education, and other agencies to monitor the ever-changing situation as it relates to the health and well-being of our community and students,” said Dr. Bailey. “The safety and well-being of every Blue Lion is our top priority, and we will continue to ensure that our schools are a safe and healthy place to learn each day.”