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Cincinnati Public Schools To Require Masks Indoors For 2021-22 School Year

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Masks will be required at Cincinnati Public Schools for the upcoming school year to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The CPS Board of Education voted unanimously on the recommendation Wednesday. This follows a recommendation made by Cincinnati Children's last week citing the transmission of the Delta variant rising within the Tri-State.

While masks will be required indoors, if a student is identified as a close contact within a school building, the student may continue to attend classes if they're not showing any symptoms of COVID-19.

"This recommended change will be very closely monitored to make sure that it doesn't impact our in-school transmissions or other safety data that we are measuring," Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Trimble-Oliver said during Wednesday's meeting.

In classrooms, students will be kept separate between 3-6 feet. On buses, 2-3 students will be placed per seat. Capacity will not be reduced on yellow buses.

For sporting events, guidelines will be announced in the future, but capacity limits could be in place for indoor sports.

CPS is citing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC says all teachers, students, staff, and visitors to K-12 schools should wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends students ages 2 and up wear masks at schools unless they have a medical or developmental condition that prohibits this.

On July 14, House Bill 244 was signed into law in Ohio which will prohibit school districts from requiring students or school employees to receive vaccines not fully approved by the FDA in order to attend. It will go into effect on October 14.

The district does not yet have a number on how many students within CPS have received COVID-19 vaccinations. More than 70% of staff members have received at least one dose. Assistant Superintendent Susan Bunte said the district will continue to offer vaccination clinics at schools going forward.

"Right before the end of the school year, we sponsored vaccination clinics at every high school site," Bunte said. "We anticipate being able to do that again and we're also working closely with our athletic department to provide vaccination clinics to our athletes."

Other districts in the area have been debating mask requirements as students return to classrooms. The Sycamore Community School Board of Education agreed Wednesday to allow the district superintendent to set a mask policy for each school. Oak Hills Local Schools will recommend, but not require masking along with Warren County Schools.

Mason Schools will not require masks either. A letter signed by 103 physicians who live in the Mason and Deerfield Township communities calls for the district to mandate masks indoors.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.