Pack your backpacks and check your bus routes because Cincinnati is back to school.
It doesn’t look like it did before the pandemic in autumn 2019 – but neither does it look like last year. Almost all public school districts in the region are starting the year completely personally this time around and plan to keep it that way.
As? By masking and vaccinating, say experts.
More: Not requiring masks in schools is “irresponsible and reckless,” says the Cincinnati Pediatric Society
More from the USA TODAY: “This is going to be a tough year”: Thousands of children are in COVID-19 quarantine in the US and school has only just started
The Delta variant of COVID-19 is highly contagious and on the rise in Cincinnati. Local counties have reported that the number of infections is now back to the higher levels we saw in February, just as vaccines became more widely available.
Children under the age of 12 are still not eligible for the vaccine. Experts say the best option for these students is to mask yourself. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine pleaded school districts during a press conference Tuesday to request masks.
“The best way…. is that this child will be vaccinated, ”DeWine said. “If this child cannot be vaccinated, it is best if that child wears this mask during class.”
Here’s what you need to know to have a safe and productive year for your students:
Does my student have to wear a mask?
It depends on your school district and in some cases the age of your child.
More: COVID-19: Mask Policies Change in Southwest Ohio Schools; here is an updated list
All students, staff, teachers, and visitors to Kentucky schools are required to wear masks in the school building. This is due to a nationwide mask mandate announced by Governor Andy Beshear earlier this month.
The situation is different in Ohio, where most districts have introduced optional mask guidelines. Governor Mike DeWine says he has no plans to give a statewide mandate but is encouraging individual school districts to implement the required mask guidelines themselves.
You can review The Enquirer’s updated list of local school mask policies here.
All students must wear masks on buses due to federal regulations.
What happens if my child doesn’t wear a mask?
In districts where masks are required, schools could discipline students according to the school’s code of conduct.
According to spokeswoman Lauren Boettcher, local Lakota schools will view violations of their universal mask policy as a dress code violation. Such violations result in disciplinary action, and the district “also has the option to assign the student to a virtual learning environment”.
“We build on our good relationships with students when it comes to discipline,” said Elizabeth Beadle, communications specialist at Middletown City Schools. “We are all navigating this pandemic together and we believe in giving grace and understanding to the norm as it changes.”
Are there still quarantines this year?
Yes, but there are ways to avoid them.
“Ohio’s goal is to keep K-12 students in-person five days a week,” says Ohio’s Department of Health school guidelines. “Students benefit cognitively, emotionally and in terms of development from personal learning.”
Vaccinated students do not need to be quarantined under the new state guidelines. Students who are not vaccinated or who have not yet been vaccinated because of their age can skip the quarantine if they wear a mask, the recommendation says.
More: Back to school during COVID-19: what you need to know about school quarantines
Students who are unmasked and not vaccinated must continue to quarantine if exposed in the classroom to someone with COVID-19, the guidelines say.
The best masks for children
The Enquirer asked the parents to indicate where they would like to buy masks for children and what their children prefer to wear.
Popular responses from parents have been Crayola, Skip Hop, and Athleta masks, all of which feature cloth masks with adjustable straps.
More: Back To School Masks: How To Fit And Where To Buy Child Size Masks
More: Delta variant: what is the difference between KF94 and KN95 masks?
MaskClub and Vogmask also make reusable kid-sized masks with kid-friendly prints.
Child-sized cloth or disposable masks can be purchased online from Amazon. Stores like Kroger, Target, Walmart, and Meijer all have cloth masks for children online and in stores.
How do I find the best subway line for my child?
Students in Cincinnati can no longer rely on Metro’s Xtra routes, which are specially designed to get children to and from school.
The transportation authority said a shortage of bus drivers has led them to abandon these routes in favor of more frequent regular routes during heavy travel times.
More: No more underground student buses: SORTA and CPS leadership publish joint statement
“Average student travel time has been reduced by 10 minutes due to the increased footfall and the two new Crosstown routes we’ve added,” said Brandy Jones, vice president of foreign affairs for Metro. According to Jones, by 2020 more than 4,000 students were using the regular subway “without incident” instead of the Xtra service.
The traffic authority says it has increased its security presence throughout its system. These routes serve all Cincinnati high school students, most of whom are in Cincinnati public schools.
Students can find the best route to school using Metro’s Trip Planner website, Transit app, or Google Maps by entering their home address and preferred time.
Subway lines will be free on Thursday and Friday, officials said until students get their bus tickets at school. Questions can be directed to Metro’s Customer Service Center at 513-632-7575.