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Face masks now required for students, staff in Switzerland of Ohio schools

WOODSFIELD — Students and staff of the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District are now required to wear masks in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

The mandate went into effect Monday and will continue until further notice at all schools in the district, which includes Beallsville Elementary and High Schools, River Elementary, River High School, Monroe Central High School, Woodsfield Elementary, Swiss Hills Career Center, Powhatan Elementary and Skyvue Elementary School. According to a release from the district, masks will be required inside the school buildings. They can be removed during lunch and while students are outside for gym class or recess. Visitors to the schools will also be required to wear masks.

Superintendent Phil Ackerman said officials have not set a timeline on how long the masks will be mandated in the schools.

“We’re going to continue to monitor the data every day and see what the trend is like and go from there. We do not have a set date of when we are going to stop or go back to no masks,” he said.

Board President Ron Winkler said the only exception to the mandate is for those who have a medical condition. He said the mandate will remain in effect until the COVID-19 numbers decline.

Ackerman said the decision was made late last week after monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in the schools.

“We had talked at our last board (of education) meeting that if our numbers continued to increase, we were going to monitor the data every day and if they continued to increase we would go to masks,” he said. “There was a slow increase (in positive cases) almost every day. It’s a matter of the health and safety of our students and staff, and being able to have available staff. We want to be able to continue to have in-person, in-school education.”

The board of education last met on Sept. 9, when it decided to keep masks optional while officials would monitor the situation and implement a mandate if deemed necessary.

As of Sept. 16, the district had a total of 42 positive cases — 35 students and seven faculty members, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The numbers are updated weekly.

Ackerman said the mask mandate is the best course of action to keep staff and students healthy, and to keep students in the classroom. He said they continue to work closely with the Monroe County Health Department to monitor spread.

Linda Masters, administrator of the county health department, said department leaders are happy with the district’s decision to mandatate masks in the schools. She said they are hopeful the mandate will help decrease the spread of the virus.

“We’ve seen in surrounding school districts that have implemented the mask mandate that their numbers have come down, so we’re anticipating a drop in cases which will be wonderful. It’s just been crazy with what’s happened since school started. We’re hoping that we follow the trend of everybody else — that’s what the statistics show — that numbers should drop with the mask mandate,” she said.

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