Herald Staff Writer
Everyone in a Barberton school building after Labor Day will have to be wearing a mask.
That was the decision of Superintendent Jeffrey Ramnytz, backed by the informal assent of the board.
Masks will only be required indoors and students will be given regular mask breaks, just like last year, Ramnytz said.
Ramnytz made the recommendation at a special “board retreat” Sept. 2. The gathering was billed as a special meeting and advance notice said board action may be taken. However, since a mask mandate was not specifically on the agenda, the board declined to give Ramnytz a formal vote that night, promising to do so at the board’s next meeting Sept. 13 at East Elementary School.
Board policy allows the superintendent to make health decisions like this unilaterally so the order was issued in an all-call that night immediately following the meeting.
All five board members that night, though, expressed their support for the mandate.
“We’re trying to educate kids,” board member Tom Harnden said. “We can’t educate them if they’re not in school.”
Prior to his recommendation, Ramnytz shared his data with the board.
“School has been in session for 11 days and we’re not doing too bad right now,” Ramnytz said. “So far, we’ve had nine students and four staff who’ve tested positive (for COVID-19).”
He said these 13 cases led to 58 contacts, 38 of whom had to quarantine. Six contacts had been masked and 14 vaccinated; these did not require quarantining.
“More and more districts are going to masks,” Ramnytz said. “Some are real hot spots. We are OK now, but that could change tomorrow.”
He referred to “a district up the road” that was especially bad. Although he didn’t name it, Wadsworth called a special meeting earlier in the week after recording 45 positive cases in the district’s first week back in school.
“My biggest fear is we have a situation like we had a couple years ago where students missed their prom and their graduation and other things every student should be able to do,” Ramnytz said. “I don’t think Barberton’s kids can do another year of remote.”
Ramnytz said a mask requirement was a small way the district could ensure the kids are able to remain in classrooms.
“I’d like to see the kids make a little sacrifice and stay in school,” board member Shawna Angeloff said.
“We have to put the health of the child first,” board President Dave Polacek said.
The board will revisit the policy at its Oct. 13 meeting, after seeing how the pandemic is doing at that time.
Ramnytz added that the district’s vaccinations of kids 12 and older is still “on the table”; 14 more are currently needed to field another clinic.
“And as soon as a vaccine is approved for the younger children, well get our partners, Discount Drug Mart, right in here and do that,” Ramnytz said.
Leave your comments about the mask mandate and the decision of the Barberton School Board by calling the Herald Viewsline 234-200-6961.