A COVID-19-related mask mandate for Dublin City Schools students in preschool through eighth grade will continue through March 7 after the school board acted Jan. 18 to extend it.
The board's decision was 4-1, with Tiffany deSilva voting against it.
The mask mandate for preschool, elementary and middle school students already was in place, but there was no specific date to lift it, said Doug Baker, a district spokesman.
Board President Scott Melody said he is optimistic the board will not be required to modify it.
“Our board and administration need to focus several pressing matters related to growth, operations and DEI," he said. "While the board has the option to revisit the resolution at any time, our hope is our numbers decline and we can adhere to the communicated dates."
DeSilva said she voted against the resolution because she was in favor of extending a mask requirement at the district's high schools.
"Our nurses are struggling to keep up with contact tracing at the high-school level, and many of our high school students just recently became eligible for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots," deSilva said. "A mask requirement would have allowed an extra layer of mitigation while giving high school students who desire booster shots time to get them. The majority of the board did not see that as a feasible option."
As one member of the board, "I accept the majority vote and move forward," deSilva said.
Melody said although COVID-19 positivity rates in the recent past have been higher than at the start of the school year, contact tracing indicates the transmission is occurring outside the classrooms, Melody said.
Superintendent John Marschhausen pointed to such data Jan. 18 in recommending that the board not implement mask mandates at the high school level.
Mask mandates have not been in place at the high schools at any time during the pandemic, Baker said.
Although the district will continue to “strongly recommend” wearing masks at the high schools, a mask mandate would create enforcement issues and continuing conflict, Marschhausen told board members.
“From a logistical standpoint, I can assure you it is not the direction the building principals in our district or the leadership team wants to go," he said.
Marschhausen told board members there is success at the high schools asking students to wear masks and shared COVID-19 case data that indicated most positive cases are not contracted in school buildings.
From Jan. 10 to 18, Marschhausen said the district recorded 972 positive cases among students, 524 of which were said to have been contracted outside of school.
Thirteen cases were confirmed to have occurred at school, 14 were sports-related and 401 were of unknown origin, Marschhausen said.
“When the kids aren’t with us, they aren’t staying home," he said. "The kids are out doing their things; it’s just part of what they are."
Marschhausen said the number of cases among students is “in proportion” to the overall rate of positive known COVID-19 cases in the community.
“Adding a mask mandate to the high school is not going to change anything," board member Lindsay Gillis said. "We’re dragging on a mental-health crisis."
Parents of preschool, elementary and middle school students still can receive an exemption to the mandate.
Families of about 7% of students have applied for and received such an exemption, Marschhausen told board members.
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Dublin school board extends mask mandate until March 7 for preschool, elementary and middle school students