(Posted Sept. 14, 2021)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Jonathan Alder Local Schools started the school year with a masks-optional policy. On Sept. 13, due to an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases and quarantines among students and staff, the school board unanimously approved a temporary mask mandate for everyone in all indoor settings on district premises.
The mask mandate goes into effect Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 11 at which time the school board will reevaluate the mandate. The mandate applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. A mask exemption request form for students with medical or religious exemptions is available on the district’s website and in school offices.
As of Sept. 14, the district had 36 active COVID-19 cases. Since the start of the school year, the district has amassed a total of 115 cases. Last school year, the district did not experience its first COVID-19 case until Sept. 27. At that time, the district was in hybrid learning mode, and masks were required when students were at school.
As of Sept. 14 of this year, 121 of the district’s students and four staff members were in quarantine due to exposure and, therefore, out of school. The total student population in the district is 2,372. The district follows Ohio Department of Health and Madison County Public Heath guidelines for quarantine.
The absences that result from quarantines impact student learning, said district Superintendent Gary Chapman. Teachers work hard to provide students in quarantine with the materials, lessons, and assignments presented in class, but it’s not the same as students being in class, he said.
When a teacher is absent due to quarantine, the whole class is impacted, Chapman continued, because the district does not have enough substitute teachers to properly cover classes. To make up for the shortage, other staff members have been pitching in, including other teachers, specialists, principals, and central office staff.
“We want our kids safe. We want them in school. We want them participating in their co-curricular activities and sports,” Chapman said. “The bottom line is this: If a child is exposed to the virus and that child is vaccinated or was wearing a mask properly during the exposure, that child does not need to be quarantined and can stay in school. Please help us keep students and teachers in school.”