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Gov. DeWine sets mask mandate for children in school

Shoppers walks past a sign encouraging masks at SouthPark Mall in Strongsville, Ohio. Gov. Mike DeWine announced a statewide health order Tuesday making masks for children in schools mandatory. (AP Photo)

All children in Ohio over the age of 2 years, will be required this school year to wear a mask or facial covering in all K-12 schools in the state.

“The schools are making decisions and parents are making decisions about how to go back to school and I know that there is a great deal of frustration … because of the lack of certainty,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine before he announced the new health order Tuesday during a statewide press conference as the coronavirus pandemic continues. “We all are trying to bring certainty to something quite candidly that we cannot be certain about.”

But, he said, the guidance from scientists and medical experts is that what community spread exists “will be reflected in that school.”

“What we know is that we all can impact the school situation,” said DeWine. “Our teachers, our administrators have worked very hard to prepare for the school year … but it’s incumbent upon us to make the sea that we are all swimming in as safe as we can.”

So DeWine announced the order for children to wear masks in schools, following the guidance of Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics-Ohio Chapter.

Marietta City Schools Superintendent Will Hampton noted Tuesday following the press conference that the state health order now supersedes local districts’ re-entry plans for schools, which as of last week had recommendations for the lower grade students to wear masks but no requirement.

“That takes it out of my hands and makes it an easy decision to follow his rules,” said Hampton. “Since we’ve started to see more people abide by the mask expectation, I see little guys that are two and three years old wearing masks without problems and see their moms coaching them how to do it and how to put it on. Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to expect a kindergartener to wear a mask. Might we need to take a calculated break in the right times and places, of course. But I think it’s perfectly acceptable.”

While there are exemptions noted in the letter of support from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics including: children unable to remove a face covering without assistance, children with a significant behavioral/psychological issue who are undergoing treatment whose documented issues are exacerbated specifically by use of a facial covering (e.g. severe anxiety or tactile aversion), children living with severe autism or with extreme developmental delay who may become agitated or anxious wearing a mask, or children with a facial deformity that causes airway obstruction; exemptions do not include asthma, allergies or sinus infections.

“Beyond these categories there are no diagnoses that warrant blanket exemptions from wearing a face covering/mask,” reads the letter tweeted and shared by DeWine’s office Tuesday. “Specifically, asthma, allergies and sinus infections are not a contradiction for using a face covering/mask.”

Hearing the order was not only a relief to Hampton, it was also a relief for Marietta City Schools parent and the most recent seamstress volunteer coordinator Sara Rosenstock.

“I feel more comfortable sending my kid to school knowing everyone will be masked,” said Rosenstock.

Rosenstock tested patterns on her children over the last several months to modify options for comfort and practicality, she explained, and her children, one in preschool and the other about to enter second grade, have adjusted to the use of the coverings.

“Right now they go to the Betsey Mills Club and wear one when they enter and anytime we’re out like say to the farmers market they’ve worn them, kids can get used to it,” she added.

So she contacted Hampton and has coordinated with the city schools’ parent-teacher organizations to do an all-call for others who sew to also volunteer and utilize the patterns she’s adjusted as a way to lighten the load.

While DeWine announced Tuesday and Hampton announced during last week’s board of education meeting that the school districts are preparing with disposable masks and other face shield options, the option of washable and reusable cloth masks is most appreciated.

“I think what those PTOs are doing is so helpful, even to give our students options to find what’s most comfortable for them and can be washed and reused,” said Hampton.

He noted that the district is also still collecting the family decisions for whether to send their children in-person every other week or to select full remote learning for the first nine weeks of school.

The deadline for those decisions to be dropped off at the child’s school building (elementary, middle or high school) is today.

Then, he said, the district should have a good idea of percentage of populations to be solely remote and how to split up the remaining in-person students into attending cohorts.

Next week will also be the distribution week for Marietta City Schools for the tablets and computers for registered students.

He said families with individual health concerns for their children or restrictions must make individual contact with the building administrator over that child to develop plans as soon as possible.

At a glance:

-Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a statewide health order Tuesday making masks for children in schools mandatory.

-He announced the order with a letter from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in support.

-Exemptions include:

– Children under 2 years old.

– Any child unable to remove the face covering without assistance.

– A child with a significant behavioral/psychological issue undergoing treatment that is exacerbated specifically by use of a facial covering (e.g. severe anxiety or tactile aversion).

– A child living with severe autism or with extreme developmental delay who may become agitated or anxious wearing a mask.

– A child with a facial deformity that causes airway obstruction.

-Exemptions DO NOT include:

– Asthma.

– Allergies.

– Sinus infections.

Sources: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, American Academy of Pediatrics-Ohio Chapter.

How to help:

Marietta City Schools parent-teacher organizations are calling on volunteer seamstresses to help ensure every student and teacher has access to reusable cloth masks for the school year.

To download a PDF instruction for adult and child-sized masks visit: bit.ly/SewMarietta

To watch video instructions on the above pattern visit: bit.ly/SewMariettaVideo

Finished masks:

1. Contact coordinator Sara Rosenstock at sara@justajar.com or 215-478-3473.

2. Drop off finished masks to 518 Sixth St., Marietta; there will be a green box on the porch to allow for no-contact drop off.

3. Deadline: Collections will be taken through the end of August. Contact Rosenstock afterward for coordination of further donations.

Source: Sara Rosenstock.

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