Oxford School District strongly recommends masks before return to school

Published 12:39 pm Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Oxford Schools Board of Trustees have decided to strongly recommend students and staff to wear well–fitting masks at school and made notable changes to their Return to Learn Plan.

Trustee Ray Hill asked Superintendent Bradley Roberson why they are not considering a mask mandate until the end of January. Hill noted that the Lafayette County School District is at high transmission level through Jan. 14, which requires all staff and students to wear masks, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends them.

Roberson quoted CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen’s research on cloth masks that showed face coverings were pretty much ineffective against coronavirus.

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“She went on to say that we at least need to be applying 3-ply surgical masks, which is also known as the disposable masks, and can be found at most drug stores and grocery stores,” said Roberson.

The superintendent reported that 85% of the masks worn by students are made of cloth and would not be significant protection against COVID and the school does not have enough supply to hand out surgical masks every day.

Coupled with those issues, it has become more difficult for the school to enforce a mask mandate as the pandemic has dragged on, said Roberson. Students may wear them as they enter the schools but they are most likely not wearing them when they leave for the day.

“Honestly, I don’t think that our community would be able to stomach another mask mandate,” said Roberson. “[Enforcement] got incredibly difficult at the end of our previous mask mandate because students had them below their chins and so on and so forth. This has waned as the pandemic has progressed. The ability to enforce has waned.”

Over the school’s winter break, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reduced the recommended isolation period from ten days to five and the Oxford School District revised their plan to reflect the CDC’s recommendation.

If a student has tested positive, they must isolate at home for five calendar days from the day of the positive test. To return back to school, students must be fever free for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medication and have a decrease in symptoms. Upon return from isolation, they must wear a mask for five calendar days.

Students who have come in close contact with a COVID-infected individual must quarantine for five calendar days as well and wear a mask for an additional five calendar days upon returning to school. The date of exposure is considered the first day of quarantine.

Since employees are considered essential workers, they are not required by the CDC to quarantine due to close contact as long as they are asymptomatic and continue daily self-screening. Faculty and staff who have COVID symptoms must provide a negative test to be exempt from quarantine. Following exposure, the employee must wear a mask for ten calendar days.

If a class, group, or team of students has an outbreak, the entire class, group, or team must quarantine at home for five days and wear a mask for an additional five calendar days upon returning to school.

The OSD trustees reported 44 employees out of approximately 500 staff members, almost 10%, have called out due to COVID.

“As you know, the Omicron variant of the Covid virus is highly transmissible and currently spiking in our community,” said Roberson in a press statement. “While local hospitalizations are low with this variant, we need everyone’s help to slow the spread so that we have enough personnel available to keep schools open.”

Parents and guardians are advised to monitor their children daily for symptoms of illness and to keep them at home if they are unwell.

Roberson said the top priority is to keep the students and staff safe, to keep schools open and to return to normalcy as much as possible which provides the teachers the best opportunity to teach their students. The district hopes to approach the upcoming wave one day at a time.

“This is going to be all hands on deck until we make it through this recent surge,” he said.

To view the Oxford School District’s Return to Learn Plan, click OSD Return to Learn Plan.

To view the Lafayette County 2021-22 COVID Transmission, click LCSD 2021-2022 Covid Transmission Plan.