200 Parma City Schools Students In Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure

Masked students board a school bus.
Parma City Schools has 200 students in quarantine this week because of exposure to COVID-19. Ohio Department of Health Guidelines say unvaccinated students who did not wear a mask when they came into contact with a person with COVID-19 must quarantine. [David Carpio / Shutterstock]
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This week, 30 Parma City School students and seven staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Two hundred students are in quarantine because of their exposure to COVID-19, but the district has not ordered a mask mandate for students or staff.

Parma Schools Superintendent Charles Smialek said the number in quarantine represents just over 2 percent of the total student population.

He said the district is not considering mandating that students wear mask. 

“I don't want to discount the impact that that has on a family and inconvenience and certainly some loss of learning. But, you know, ultimately, you have to ask for a pretty dramatic change in behavior at this point for, you know, what's been a relatively small number of students impacted,” Smialek said.

Ohio Department of Health guidelines say unvaccinated students who did not wear a mask when they came into contact with a person with COVID-19 must quarantine. All of the quarantined Parma students were unvaccinated.  Smialek said though the district has not implemented a mask mandate, it encourages mask wearing by trying to educate families on their importance. He said he believes the effort “had a positive impact.”

“We've sent out reminders to our parents explaining that, ultimately, that mask is going to, first, most importantly, prevent, you know, spread of disease. But second of all, in most cases, it also prevents the need to quarantine,” Smialek said. “We've also really reminded our teachers of the importance of social distancing in the classroom and trying to make sure that, you know, in all instances where it's possible we're going to have our students at least three feet apart.”

The administration, he said, is monitoring the number COVID-19 cases in the district and Friday's new case numbers were encouraging as it was the district's “best day yet.”

Smialek said a student mask mandate is a divisive issue.

“This is difficult because we do have a lot of families that have expressed, 'Listen, my kid's not wearing a mask. And if you're going to put a mask mandate, I’m not sending them to your school anymore and I'm putting them somewhere else.’ And then then we have another half of the parents, ‘And why haven't you mandated yet?’” 

Various school districts in Northeast Ohio are reconsidering their mask policies because of a rise in COVID-19 cases at their schools.

Last week, Willoughby-Eastlake Superintendent Steve Thompson announced, in a letter to families, that the district was issuing a mask mandate for all students and staff after recording 25 positive COVID-19 cases in the first week of school, which resulted in over 80 students quarantining.

“These numbers have shown us that failing to implement a mask mandate, coupled with the rising number of ill students and staff, will not allow the district to sustain a safe and in-person learning environment,” Thompson said in the letter. 

On Tuesday night, the Wadsworth City Schools Board of Education voted to reinstate a mask mandate for all students and staff after 74 positive COVID-19 cases among students, which forced more than 500 students into quarantine. The district had been mask-optional, but after roughly 12% of the district’s student population was forced stay home in only the second week of school, the district administration decided to change the policy immediately.

In a message to families, Wadsworth Superintendent Andy Hill wrote that the board’s decision was based on “how to best keep students and employees in school out of quarantine based on the quarantine process, per the flow sheet created by the Ohio Department of Health and followed by the Medina County Health Department.”

“The initial requirement for all is to try to get our numbers under control during what may be a peak period,” Hill said in the letter. 

The mask mandate in Wadsworth will be in effect at least until September 20th, when the Board of Education will meet to discuss mask mandate policies, Hill said in his letter. The board may determine a threshold, using the percentage of positive and quarantined students, that would be used to guide future mask mandates.

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