Masks required in CW Schools


By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

The Canal Winchester Board of Education voted on Sept. 20 to initiate a mandatory mask requirement in the schools.

As of Sept. 27, all students, staff and visitors are required to wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status, inside all district buildings.

“Unless COVID magically goes away, I think this is something we’ll continue to discuss over the course of the year,” said board member Kevin Butler, who voted for the mandate along with Monika Talley and Mike Yonnotti. Jon Metzler and Matt Krueger opposed the mask mandate.

“Hopefully, we’ll trend in the negative (number of cases),” said Butler. “Every 30 days I’m more than willing to look at the numbers.”

According to Canal Winchester Schools Superintendent James Sotlar, the COVID-19 data for the first four weeks of the 2021-22 school year indicated 118 students and 12 staff members tested positive for the virus and 560 students were excluded (quarantined) due to close contact, 385 due to in-school contact.

Sotlar said a couple of cases occurred within sports teams, which led to a large number of individuals quarantined.

“We’re not the medical experts,” said Sotlar, who emphasized the reason for a mask mandate is to reduce the number of COVID cases and reduce exclusions from school. “Our job is to rely on the medical experts telling us what we need to do to keep kids safe. My number one factor is keeping kids in school and keeping them safe.”

When asked what happens if a student refuses to wear a mask and does not have a medical exemption on file, Sotlar said he hopes parents will cooperate with the district’s decision. However, according to school policy, there are recourses administrators can take to remedy the situation.

“If a student comes to school and doesn’t want to follow the rules set forth, we’re going to have a conversation with the parents, send them home, and if it continues to be a trend, there will be possible consequences for insubordination,” Sotlar said. “I don’t want to get there. I hope it doesn’t happen, but it’s going to be up to the individual student to cooperate.”

Parent Leslie Irvin made her point clear about a mask mandate—she felt the school board has no right to tell her to mask her child in school.

“I am the only person who gets to make decisions that are moral, parental, spiritual or legal for my child,” said Irvin. “As long as I live and have breath, that will remain true. I have no legal or moral responsibility to a pandemic. You don’t get to make decisions for me or my family, just as I don’t get to make decisions for yours…I am telling you, I do not consent to masking my children. You have no right to make medical decisions for my children.”

Amber Huffman said the virus posed nearly no risk to children and asked if there were suggestions to wear a mask because of the flu.

“Has anyone thought about the psychological damage this could potentially do to our kids by forcing then to cover their faces,” asked Huffman. “Teaching them that the air is toxic?”

Another parent whose preschooler is at high risk for health complications if they contract COVID-19, said all children deserve to feel safe in school, but right now it is an unacceptable risk for the unmasked and unvaccinated. She asked on behalf of her son and for the protection of all children to mandate masks, at least until vulnerable kids can be vaccinated.

As for a backlash on the school nurse, secretaries, and health care aides when informing a parent of their child’s close contact exposure and need to exclude them from school, Sotlar said they are doing what they are instructed to do.

“It is frustrating for parents,” said Sotlar. “I totally understand that. No one wants their kids to be home if they’re in close contact and they’re healthy, but this is what we have to follow at this time. This isn’t a foolproof plan. Wearing a mask doesn’t mean you’re not going to get COVID-19 and not come in close contact. We have lunch periods and that’s a challenging time. Reducing the number of exclusions and keeping kids in school is a win-win.”


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