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Teays Valley parents debate the pros and cons of mask requirements at schools

While one parent said masks are the easiest and most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID, another parent said requiring masks is an overreach.

PICKAWAY COUNTY, Ohio — An argument is like a coin. Both have two sides.

What both sides can agree on in this argument is wanting to keep students and school districts safe. What they disagree on is how to make that happen.

“We believe that masking would be the easiest and most effective way to prevent the spread [of Covid] in schools and keep our schools open,” Katie Gill said. “Not to mention keep everybody safe.”

Gill is a mother in the Teays Valley Local School District. She would like to see masks required in schools citing a recent uptick in student and teacher Covid cases.

Spencer Travis is a father in the same district. He says requiring masks is an overreach.

“I think common sense should prevail,” he said. “Keep clean, keep distance [and] don’t get in any other peoples’ spaces or anything else. The mask doesn’t cure everything.”

The Teays Valley district announced Friday it will be requiring masks starting on Jan. 18.

Prior to the requirement, the district says it monitors the numbers closely and it has been in communication with parents through emails and social media.

The district, in a statement to 10TV, also lists a handful of strategies it has used, including flushing the air in the buildings, improving filtration systems and lunchroom dividers as a way to make student safety a priority.

Gill says she knows many parents in Pickaway County, much like other parents in other counties across the state, are against the idea. She understands not everyone is on board with vaccines, but says mask-wearing is a simple fix.

“[It’s] that simple,” she said. “Simple as that.”

A simple gesture to help everyone, vaccinated or not. Travis says requiring masks could be harmful to a student’s developing mind.

“When we push something on to a young mind that is still growing and trying to understand ‘How do I socially interact, but I’ve got to be made to do this’ when it’s not affecting them,” Travis said.

Across the state school districts have recently dealt with an increased number in student, teacher and bus driver absences due to illness. Many fear this inconsistent instruction could be impacting a student’s education.

“If the mask is doing so well then the teacher that’s wearing the mask…why isn’t it protecting them,” Travis said.

Health experts have said masks and vaccinations are the best way to limit Covid infections and hospitalizations.

Here is the statement sent to 10TV by the Teays Valley Local School District:

Multiple communications have gone out to parents through emails and social media letting them know that masking is encouraged at all of the Teays Valley schools. Currently, 1.5% of our student population is positive for COVID-19. We monitor the positive numbers daily and have let our staff and students know that there is a possibility that masks will be required if positive numbers rise in a certain classroom, grade level, school or district-wide. We have already required masks for a period of time for individual classrooms and student groups who have had a rise in COVID-19 positives. 

A number of mitigation strategies are in place to minimize the spread. These include, but are not limited to, new Chillers at various buildings, flushing the air at each building, improved filtration systems and filters in each building, lunch room dividers at the elementary and middle schools, vaccine clinics for interested students and staff, three additional custodians to assist with cleaning and sanitizing and hand sanitizer available in classrooms and hallways. We take our students' safety very seriously and will continue to monitor our COVID-19 positivity rate daily.

COVID-19 in Ohio: Recent Coverage ⬇️

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