CINCINNATI (WXIX) — The president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers had strong words Thursday for Gov. Mike DeWine following his announcement of a new quarantine pilot program in school districts in Warren County.
“We shouldn’t be jumping through hoops to avoid common sense protections against this deadly disease,” said OFT chair Melissa Cropper. said in a press releaseadding that she is “disappointed and outraged” by the pilot program.
Cropper also called for a statewide mask mandate to keep Ohio students in the classroom.
At issue are quarantine guidelines from the Ohio Department of Health that opponents say are too strict, leading to district-wide shutdowns when healthy students are sent home.
Proponents counter that quarantines are preventive measures required by the delta variant, which can incubate without showing symptoms, is much more transmissible than the original virus and seems to have more impact on children. They also point to statements by health officials made before the start of the school year predicting quarantines in districts without a mask mandate.
Schools in Lebanon City, for example, closed on Wednesday less than a week after vocal opposition at an emergency council meeting torpedoed a new mask policy. The council instead voted to seek a legal ruling on changing what requires quarantine.
A mask mandate is now in effect across the district. Still, the quarantine debate rages on, and DeWine seems to be paying attention.
The pilot program (detailed in a letter from the Superintendent of Lebanon here) significantly relaxes ODH quarantine guidelines.
A student exposed to the coronavirus can stay in school as long as they wear a mask for seven days and have two days of rapid testing apart.
It’s similar, but not identical, to an executive order from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday urging schools to impose mask mandates by offering relaxed quarantine guidelines.
In Indiana, any district that has a mask mandate in place will no longer have to quarantine close contacts if the contact does not have symptoms.
Warren County’s pilot program is not quite the “either/or” compromise as Indiana’s.
Relaxed quarantine guidelines remain a carrot in Warren County, but Ohio’s stick — student-by-student mask rules that expire after a week — fall well short of Districtwide’s mask mandate. Indiana.
Educators in all three states have already sounded off against the difficulty of enforcing a student-by-student mask mandate, with some wondering if it’s even possible.
“It’s time for Governor DeWine to be a leader, protect our students, and keep our schools open by requiring masks in K-12 schools statewide,” Cropper said.
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