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Worthington Parents Protest Lack Of Mask Requirement For High School Students

Students walk to class in the hallway of Worthington Kilbourne High School in March 2021.
Dan Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Students walk to class in the hallway of Worthington Kilbourne High School in March 2021.

Worthington City Schools implemented stronger mask requirements, but a group of parents wants the district to go further.

The school district announced this month that all students in kindergarten through eighth grade, as well as unvaccinated staff members, will be required to wear masks indoors.

A group of parents and community members called Protect Worthington wants the rule to extend to high school students. This evening they'll protest at the Worthington Education Center.

Maria Ramirez is a co-founder of the group and wants the district to require masks for all students.

“We just want Worthington schools to listen to the experts like they did last year and make sure that our students are in school and protected from COVID-19,” Ramirez said.

At a recent Worthington Board of Education meeting, at least one parent stated opposition to masks being required at all, claiming inaccurately that there was no scientific evidence from the CDC showing masks prevent the spread of the virus. The CDC’s website does in fact show such evidence.

Vicki Gnezda, a spokeswoman for Worthington Schools, said in an email statement that “the district’s mask protocols were made in consultation with local public health officials and based upon the current guidance and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Ohio Department of Health.”

“As this situation continues to evolve, the district will continue to review and consider available guidance from local, state and national health officials with respect to the best ways to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” the statement said.

The Ohio Department of Health's recommendations schools state that "masks have been proven to be extremely effective in slowing the spread of the virus. Ohio researchers conducted an evaluation last year that showed that masking helped control the spread of the virus in Ohio schools. ODH strongly recommends that those who are unvaccinated wear masks while in school.”

Ramirez is happy with Worthington schools for some of its efforts to fight the virus, including last week hosting vaccination clinics for students 12 and older at Worthington's middle and high schools.

“Worthington schools has done some things right, and the vaccination clinic is something that I applaud,” she said. “They’re doing a wonderful job with that, but we need to have all the elements to have the layered approach to fighting COVID-19's spread, which is recommended by the CDC.”

She said that Protect Worthington advocates for a universal mask mandate in the school system.

“Without any mask requirement or enforcement of the parents’ wishes by the school, the decision’s not going to be in the hands of the parents, but it’s completely on the shoulders of teenagers,” Ramirez said. “Teens should not be carrying that burden, and parents should not be stripped away of their ability to protect their children from this dangerous virus.”

Worthington's school year begins for K-8 on Wednesday and its high school students start classes on Thursday.