BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Maumee City Schools has changed its stance on face masks, requiring that all students, teachers and other district staff wear masks in district buildings at all times regardless of vaccine status.
Previously, a district policy established that face masks would be optional, but on August 19, one day before the start of the new school year, a notice was sent alerting families of the updated policy change.
District Superintendent Dr. Todd Cramer explained the process for the decision change at the August 23 board of education meeting, which took place in the school cafeteria at Maumee High School.
“We want to keep students in the classroom,” Cramer said.
Noting that masks reduce the need for students to quarantine should exposure to the virus occur in school, Cramer said that wearing masks is the best option for now.
Outlining his remarks, Cramer cited data from January through June 2020, in which quarantining guidelines were amended by the state to allow students who were exposed in the classroom to remain in school as long as a student was wearing a mask and was further than 3 feet from the exposure source. Without a mandatory mask policy during that time frame, 254 Maumee students exposed in the classroom would have had to quarantine at home if they had been unmasked, which would have resulted in a loss of 11,557 hours of in-school instruction, he said.
“This was a significant factor in making our decision,” he said.
The number of COVID cases in Lucas County is also on the rise, according to recent data shared by Cramer. Between July 20 and August 2, there were 27 COVID cases reported in Lucas County among children ages 0-18. From August 3 to August 16, that number increased to 115 reported cases.
“Unfortunately, as we sit here today, we are still headed in the wrong direction when it comes to the number of new cases,” Cramer said.
Several people attended the meeting, and eight people spoke against the policy, including Dr. Jenny Pfleghaar, a parent and emergency room doctor.
“This isn’t about health. If it was about health, the school cafeteria would not serve margarine for lunch and Pop-Tarts for breakfast,” she said.
Citing the need to gather information from rigorous scientific studies, such as randomized control trials (RCTs), Pleghaar cited a 2015 RCT study that showed cloth masks are ineffective in preventing disease spread. She acknowledged that N95 masks are effective, but because that is not what students are wearing, cloth masks should not be required.
“If you are truly interested in high-quality studies, I urge you to read the studies that I sent to each of you in your e-mail. We all want our kids to have a safe school year. Let masks be optional or mandate proper, fit-tested N95 masks, which actually do work well against COVID.”
Kyle Buedel asked the board to stay consistent in the policy, noting that individuals at football games are sitting shoulder to shoulder and are unmasked. Others questioned the source of data used to implement the mask policy.
Jason Lankey, a parent who served as a Maumee firefighter/EMT and who is now a state trooper, referred to the virus outbreak as a “scamdemic.”
“We are breaking no laws by not wearing a mask. I hate to break it to you. It’s not a law, it’s a rule, just like running in the halls,” Lankey said. “We are living in a clown world. We need to be big boys and girls and let us make a decision for us and for our families.”
One parent, Anne Mullins, spoke in favor of the mask policy.
“I am a social worker and I have seen the effects that COVID has had on our youth over the past year and thank you for your support of masks,” she said.
Board members did not respond publicly to the comments that were made, but prior to that portion of the meeting, the board unanimously passed a formal motion confirming the mask policy.
Following the meeting, Cramer said that he is certain of his decision based on the information he has reviewed.
“I’m confident in the data sources we used to base our decision on and I stand behind them,” Cramer said. “Without going into more detail and diving into some of the information that was shared tonight, I am in disagreement with some of the statements that were made as far as the factualness of it.”
The goal of any pandemic policy is to keep students in the classroom and return to a mask-optional scenario.
“That is the goal 100 percent. That is why we ended the year in the fashion that we did,” Cramer said. “But when we look at the number of kids from age 0 to 18 right now, and we look at the way those numbers are trending, they are the exact opposite of where we were when we decided to go masks optional.”
Other local school districts with a mask mandate include Toledo Public, Ottawa Hills and Washington Local.
Masks are optional but recommended in the Anthony Wayne school district.
Several universities have imposed a mask mandate, including Bowling Green State University and The University of Toledo.