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Xenia requiring masks for K-5 students


XENIA — Xenia schools will require masks for all students in grades K-5 beginning Monday, Aug. 30.

The district began the school year without a mask mandate, other than the federal requirement that students are masked on all transportation. However district officials heard Gov. Mike DeWine’s plea last week during a press conference and decided to make the switch, which was announced late Wednesday afternoon.

“As we have talked about many times over the past 18 months, our goal has always been to keep students learning together in person, keeping focus on both academic success and the social-emotional wellness of students that comes from working together in classrooms, interacting with teachers and staff, and participating in extra-curricular activities,” Superintendent Dr. Gabe Lofton said in an email to the district. “However, the safety and well-being of our community must continue to be our top priority. Last week, Gov. DeWine’s press conference made it clear that the threat of new variants of the COVID-19 virus is incredibly serious, and that parents and school districts are being asked to do everything we can to reduce the spread of the virus by keeping it out of our classrooms. In short, Gov. DeWine stated that the best way to ensure that children can remain in school is for them to be vaccinated. If they cannot be vaccinated, they should wear a mask.”

The mask requirement does not apply while at recess or when students are outdoors. In addition, teachers will offer regular mask breaks during the day at their own discretion, Lofton said.

“For students who are eligible and have not received the vaccine, I strongly encourage parents to consider that option,” Lofton said. “If you choose not to vaccinate your students, I would ask that those older students at Warner Middle School and Xenia High School not currently subject to this change in protocol also wear masks while indoors and in close proximity to others.”

Lofton stressed that district officials hope this protocol will be in place for a “limited time” and the district will be able to return to optional masks soon.

“But that largely depends on how well the spread of the COVID-19 variants is managed in the coming weeks,” he said. “It is our intention to actively reassess the protocol at the six-week mark, although change could come sooner or later than that as the situation unfolds. I know that none of this is welcome news. I know that we would all prefer a return to the more normal year that we planned for so hopefully throughout the summer months. However, that is not possible given the quick acceleration of transmission rates at this time. As always, I ask for your patience and understanding as we navigate the course ahead together.”

Xenia is not alone in making the switch to masks. Fairborn and Beavercreek made masks mandatory in some or all buildings after originally announcing they would be optional, and Yellow Springs had announced that it would begin the school year with a mask mandate in place.

By Scott Halasz

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Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.