WILMINGTON — A mask mandate at Wilmington City Schools (WCS) was lifted Thursday afternoon, when the board of education also adopted this week’s Ohio Department of Health’s updated guidance for adding quarantine options.
The decision to set aside the mask requirement was based on a careful review of county and school data, and was made in consultation with the Clinton County health commissioner and medical director, said WCS Superintendent Mindy McCarty-Stewart.
With the WCS mandate rescinded, school officials still highly recommend individuals wear masks, especially when other protective measures are not available and when the COVID rate goes up, McCarty-Stewart said.
Furthermore, in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control, masks will continue to be required for staff and students on school buses.
The superintendent presented the rationale for the decision, noting what has changed since the mask mandate was extended Oct. 11. The reasons include that confirmed new cases for students district-wide have dropped significantly, she said — three last week and four this week.
That compares to 15 new student cases in the week before the extension.
Also, there has been only one new staff case since Oct. 11, and staff are now eligible to receive booster shots.
Also favorable: The district’s attendance rate has been steadily increasing. And Clinton County’s testing positivity rate has dropped to 2.4 percent, down from 12.1 percent.
Additionally, the Clinton County Health District anticipates that children ages 5 through 11 will soon be eligible for vaccinations if their parents choose.
In short, school and county data trends have improved over the past 2½ weeks, as reflected by lower rates of cases and transmission. Lifting of the mask mandate is supported by the county health commissioner and the Clinton County Health District’s medical director, said the WCS superintendent.
When it comes to communicable diseases and pandemics and medical advice, McCarty-Stewart said it’s key to make sure your experts support going in a particular direction.
Three people spoke at the special Thursday meeting, favoring the removal of the mask mandate.
One of those, Chad Taylor, said, “For almost two years now, we’ve been handed policies that are extremely influenced by officials claiming to be experts. Even more puzzling is how most of this influence has not been done in an open public forum by these individuals. The days of reading comments and letters handed down by county and state officials need to cease.”
The stakeholders of the school district such as parents ought to be part of “in-depth open discussions on these policies,” he said.
Taylor also cited data on students’ learning loss.
If there are future localized cluster outbreaks, a WCS mask requirement may be put back in place for a 14-day period when a classroom, building, or the district is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, at the discretion of the superintendent in consultation with the Clinton County health commissioner and medical director.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.