Parma Schools, 1 of Ohio’s largest districts, is latest to relax mask mandate

Masks now optional after Governor allowed schools to decide
Parma Schools made masks option in the classroom on Monday
Parma Schools made masks option in the classroom on Monday
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 12:10 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s not a decision school districts like Parma take lightly.

“The mask debate has been, if not equal to, potentially even more vociferous than when we were talking about students in school or out of school, virtual instruction models,” said Charles Smialek, superintendent of the Parma School District.

The governor rolled back the requirement for schools to require masks on Ohio students and Smialek said he’s trying to keep students in the classroom, keep them safe, all while trying to get teaching back to normal.

“We’ve had teachers that have wanted to go back to be able to see student’s expressions,” Smialek said. “I mean, a lot of what we gauge classroom performance is the little ‘ah-hah’ moments and that’s lost rightfully so when you have masks on so we wanted to go back to as close to normal as possible knowing that normal is an evolving term in the era of COVID.”

Some other districts that have relaxed mask mandates in the area include Aurora, Avon Lake, Berea, Brooklyn, Euclid, Independence, Olmsted Falls, and Strongsville.

“I think it could be a bit early,” said Dr. Claudia Hoyen, director of infection control at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “When we look at the numbers of COVID cases, clearly they’ve come down in the last two weeks, but nowhere near where we were in June or July.”

She worries cases might go up again with weather forcing people inside more and with the holidays approaching. And she said, in addition to masks, there’s another way to prevent COVID now available to students between the ages of five and 18.”

“The other thing people should do if they haven’t already is getting their kids vaccinated for COVID,” said Dr. Hoyen.

University Hospitals and Rainbow have vaccinated about 1,000 children over the past few days, according to Dr. Hoyen.

Meanwhile, in Parma, the superintendent said they will continue to revisit the masking issue.

“We can always evolve if necessary,” said Smialek; meaning one of the few constants in the battle against COVID is change.

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