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Westerville school district to require masks for all students, staff to begin academic year

The district said if the Franklin County COVID-19 case rate drops below 50 cases per 100,000 people, it would work to make masks optional for high school students.
Credit: FamVeld/shutterstock.com

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — The Westerville City School District announced all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear face masks inside school buildings to begin the academic year.

In a release from the district, superintendent Dr. John Kellogg said the decision comes after Columbus Public Health and Franklin County Public Health strongly recommended schools follow CDC guidance on universal masking for students and staff.

According to the CDC, when the COVID-19 case rate in a community reaches 50 cases per 100,000 residents or higher, there is an increased risk of spread in schools.

As of Aug. 2, Franklin County is "substantial" in the CDC's level of community transmission tracker. 

For classes or activities that happen outside, students and staff can remove their masks while maintaining proper social distance.

The district says students will have to wear masks on school buses, in accordance with CDC guidance. The district will also assign seats to students and maintain cleaning protocols.

Kellogg said if Franklin County drops below the 50 cases per 100,000 threshold, the district would consider what they call a strategic, tiered approach to making masks optional at the high school level.

However, the district says it will continue to require all students Pre-K through eighth grade to wear masks regardless of case rate status, until a vaccine is available for those who are under the age of 12. After that, it would look at the guidance based on county case rates.

The district says it will continue to maintain at least three feet of physical distancing between students in the classroom, during lunch periods and in other common areas in which students gather.

The mask requirements go into effect on Aug. 4 and most classes will begin Aug. 12.