Thursday, June 30, 2022

OSD Strongly Recommends Masks, not Requiring Them

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor

The Oxford School District will not be requiring students and staff to wear masks when they return to school Thursday.

The OSD Board of Trustees met for a special meeting Wednesday morning via Zoom to discuss the district’s Return to Learn Plan, the outlines the school’s COVID-19 policies.

Superintendent Bradly Robinson presented the plan with a few new amendments.

In regard to face coverings, the plan states “well-fitting face coverings (such as 3-ply surgical masks) are strongly recommended, but not required on Oxford School District campuses.”

“Every time that we’ve discussed this plan, we have to take a balanced approach in order to meet all of our goals, which are keeping students and staff safe; keeping our schools open; returning to as much of normal operation as possible, which provides us and our teachers the best opportunity to teach our kids,” Roberson said.

Roberson reported that on Tuesday, 42 district staff members were out due to COVID-19. That includes teachers, assistant teachers and other employees. The school employs about 500 people.

The first day of school for students after winter break is Thursday.

“I’ve told our staff members they very well may end up serving as substitutes in classrooms over the next several weeks,” Roberson said.

OSD Board Trustee Ray Hill asked why Roberson was not considering a mask mandate with the increase of cases. He pointed out that the Lafayette County School District announced Tuesday that it will be requiring masks for two weeks at all of its schools.

“I am very concerned that we’re not going to have enough teachers to stay in school,” Hill said. “Masks have helped us in the past to mitigate transmitting of the virus.”

Roberson said that before making his recommendation to the Board, he did some research on masks that showed cloth masks were not effective against spreading Omicron, which he claimed, 80 percent of the masks students wear are cloth masks. He said the school does not have enough supply of surgical masks to hand to every student and staff member, each day.

And then frankly, honestly, I don’t know that our community would be able to stomach another mask mandate,” Roberson said. “It got incredibly difficult toward the end of our previous mask mandate to enforce it.”

Other amendments to the Return to Learn plan include requiring students and teachers who test positive with COVID-19 to wear a mask for five days after returning to school. Employees who were in close contact with someone who tested positive do not need to stay home as long as they remain asymptomatic and continue daily self-screening. Employees and students who test positive can return to school five days from the date of the positive test as long as they are free of fever for 24 hours.

Hill made a motion to require masks for all staff and students until the end of January; however, it died for a lack of a second.

Another motion was made by Trustee Betsy Smith to approve the amended Return to Learn Plan which passed unanimously.

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