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As a new strain of coronavirus (covid-19) sweeps through the world, stay up-to-date on the latest preparedness plans, school closings, changed polling locations, and more in the Tri-State.

CPS Board Debates Whether Masks Should Be Required This Fall

kid in mask
Izzy Park

Cincinnati Public Schools students will need to wait a little longer before they know whether to restock their mask supply. The board debated the coronavirus prevention measure during a Monday meeting, though a safety plan recommendation includes requiring masks for everyone while indoors.

The masks would be required until a higher student vaccination rate is reached. In the district, only 11% of students ages 12-18 have received vaccines through CPS clinics. In Hamilton County, 29% of kids aged 12-14 are vaccinated. The same goes for at least 37% of people in the county ages 15-19.

Board Member Eve Bolton said she still doesn't understand why vaccinated people would have to wear masks in the buildings. She says the district moved to remote last year due to staff absences, not COVID-19 spreading throughout the district.

"It was not that we had the pandemic spread wide, it was not that we weren't doing what the science people were telling us or what the health experts were telling us, it's because we had attendance issues," Bolton said.

Board President Carolyn Jones said she doesn't want the district to shut down this school year, but wants CPS to do everything to stop the spread within the community.

"I just want the year to start successfully, get our kids in here," Jones said. "I think everybody's excited about it, but I still think we have to be safe."

In-person board meetings are expected to resume next month. By then, board members will need to be physically present to count in a quorum or vote.

The recommendations will be discussed further in a future Policy and Equity Committee meeting.

On July 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance for K-12 schools, highlighting the importance of getting as many eligible children vaccinated as possible to return classrooms to normal or near normal. The updated guidelines note that fully vaccinated staff and students may not need to wear masks at school. So far, just 1 out of 3 kids ages 12 to 17 nationwide have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

On Monday, a bill proposed in the Ohio Senate would ban public schools and colleges from requiring masks in their buildings. Instead, only local health departments could issue mask orders. Bill sponsor Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) said businesses that require masks would have to make exceptions for people who have medical conditions.

Since May 2020, more than 1,800 staff and students throughout the district have contracted COVID-19, with more than 1,100 of those cases being students. Cincinnati currently has a positivity rate of 3%.

Here's the list of recommended changes to the district's safety plan:

  1. Temperature checks at building entrances eliminated
  2. Staggered bus arrival and departure eliminated
  3. Field Trips permitted
  4. Visitors and volunteers permitted and must follow all safety protocols
  5. Work-related travel permitted
  6. Shared materials permitted
  7. Distancing during meals when masks are removed is required to be three-feet minimum
  8. Close contacts will continue to quarantine, if unvaccinated and symptom-free
  9. Masks still required for everyone indoors (until a higher student vaccination rate is reached). Not required outdoors (pending policy update)
  10. All other precautions stay the same (hand hygiene, disinfecting, ventilation, isolation room, etc.)

The first day of school is Aug. 19. 
Superintendent Search Update

CPS' Board of Education has developed a timeline to begin searching for a new superintendent. The decision is expected to be made by the end of August. Deputy Superintendent Tianay Amat is serving as interim superintendent after Laura Mitchell resigned in May

The board will select an executive search firm to aid in the process. A request for proposal is expected to be submitted later this week.

More details will be released as the timeline advances.