By Linda Dillman
Across the nation, confrontations are on the rise between parents opposing mask mandates and school boards dealing with increased absences due to COVID-19 quarantines. The Hamilton Local district is no exception.
On Aug. 30, the Hamilton Board of Education addressed the issue as the high school prepared to shut down for a second day in the row due to pandemic quarantine concerns.
Despite vocal opposition to masks from some parents—a few of whom were removed from the meeting for speaking out of turn after a public participation session ended—contrasted by support for masks from students attending the meeting—the board voted to institute an across-the-board mask mandate for all school buildings.
The spike in cases and quarantines in Hamilton Local Schools prompted the board to require masks for all students, staff, and visitors in indoor spaces, which went into effect on Sept. 1. Students riding on district transportation were already required to wear masks while on board.
In an open letter to the district posted to the district’s Facebook page on Aug. 30, Superintendent Mark Tyler said, “This decision comes after having closely monitored the data trends impacting our district. The board of education is aware of these trends and the district’s concerns about preserving the continuity of education. Due to the Ohio Department of Health’s Guidelines for Quarantine After Exposure in K-12 Classroom Settings, we are focusing on keeping students and staff in school by reducing the potential that they would be close contacts and quarantines, resulting in missing class.”
Tyler said Hamilton Local’s goal remains to keep as many students and staff in the classroom as possible and acknowledged the topic is a difficult issue within the community.
Tyler emphasized the decision was made to keep students in school, in-person, five days a week.
Despite a number of student athletes in quarantine, district spokesperson Kaitlin Duncan said there is not a concentration of positive cases within the athletic program.
“We have had six games cancelled between both JV and Varsity teams throughout all fall sports,” said Duncan. “Any league games will be rescheduled. Currently there are 34 cases within the district, with 19 cases being at the high school. This can be referenced on our COVID Update Report: https://bit.ly/HLSDCovidCases.”
Case numbers are updated by the school nurse. Cumulatively, there were 53 positive cases reported since the start of school. Parents/guardians are asked to report new positive COVID-19 cases to their child’s school.
The district must then notify the Franklin County Public Health Department within 24 hours of a positive case reported by a staff or for a student. If a child was deemed to be in close contact of an infected person, a parent/guardian will be notified by the health department, not the district.