Keeping kids in school and expert medical guidance

cited by Loveland School Superintendent Mike Broadwater

By Chuck Gibson  

LOVELAND, OH (August 23, 2021) – Masks are now mandatory for Loveland City School District (LCSD) students Pre K-6 grade inside the schools, following a change of policy recommendation by Superintendent Mike Broadwater during a “Special Meeting” of the School Board Friday, August 20.

The previous resolution gave parents the choice to mask or not to mask the students. After the first three days of classes – LCSD went back to school Wednesday, August 18 – Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, the Board of Education (BOE) held the special meeting for the purpose of receiving a first week report from the Superintendent and discussion of any possible change due to COVID. Members of the BOE voted 4-1 to revise the existing “Face Covering/Mask Policy” resolution to allow the superintendent to set student masking requirements. Mike Broadwater then recommended the new policy requiring masks to be worn by Pre K-6 grade students while leaving the optional mask choice to parents for student’s grade 7-12 in Loveland Schools.  Why the change? That’s the question being posed by many.

LCSD Superintendent Mike Broadwater (Provided)

I sat down with Superintendent Mike Broadwater and asked him that very question. Why the change of policy Friday? His answer boils down to three definitive reasons. He cited keeping kids in school as the driving motivation behind making masks a requirement for the students. Hundreds of emails have been received by parents expressing their position on the matter of masks – some for, some against. Among the concerns of many is the issue of quarantining kids (keeping kids home) if there is a positive case. Then kids are not in the building, parents are scrambling as they attempt to adjust schedules to accommodate kids at home during work day etc.  

“For me the number 1 driving factor is kids in the building,” said Broadwater. “At the secondary level, grade 7-12, get your kid vaccinated, then they won’t have to quarantine.”

To be sure, Broadwater acknowledged students grade 7-12 who choose to wear a mask, vaccinated or not, will not have to quarantine if exposed to a positive COVID case. Again, that keeps kids in the classrooms. That’s another point he made, teachers are doing everything they can to get the kids outside of the building where they can remove the masks in the open air learning environment. It is certainly a creative solution – as long as the weather will allow it. Another reason for the change in policy goes back to the message from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine last Tuesday, August 17, where he outlined a spike in COVID cases and the Ohio Department of Public Health recommendation that all students Pre K-12 wear masks in school.

“Governor DeWine came out on Tuesday and said the variant was increasing, there was a surge, the transmittal rate for regular COVID is for every one person, they spread it to two,” Broadwater explained. “Governor DeWine and Dr. Vanderhoff (Chief of Ohio Department of Health) said for every one person with Delta it spreads to five. I’m not a medical expert. You have medical experts who say it needs to be everybody masked no matter what. Right now the medical experts are saying you should be masking everybody Pre K-12.”

Who are the medical experts?

“I think the Center for Disease Control (CDC) one, the Ohio Department of Public Health- two, and Hamilton County Public Health- three,” Broadwater answered. “All are saying mask everybody Pre K-12. To me, those are your medical professionals.”

Broadwater also confers with a Loveland Schools medical advisory board every Friday. He describes their role as advising how medical guidelines apply specifically to Loveland Schools and the community. He repeated his number one reason of needing to have the kids in school. Nobody wants a repeat of last year with students not in school, but going through the stresses and even uncertainty of remote learning. The argument has been well stated regarding the social and emotional impact of that situation. Parent choice, masks optional for all students was the resolution as Loveland Schools opened for the new school year on Wednesday. It changed on Friday. What did the optional mask choice look like for those first three days?

Superintendent Broadwater says the buildings were all monitored to determine what percentage of students were wearing masks. Despite the mix of response from the community for and against a mask mandate, the numbers proved surprisingly in favor of sending the Pre K-6 grade students to school with masks on. It was not a scientific study, but there was a count made.

“We had our buildings take a poll,” said Broadwater. “We were at about a 70-75% clip of students wearing masks. What I said at the meeting was: to me that shows the community was concerned about this age level. There are two parts to it. One is the health of the student, two is keeping your child in school. If they are wearing a mask, they got a pretty good chance they’re not going to have to quarantine.”

Broadwater outlined the three key reasons he recommended the change in facial mask policy for Loveland Schools pretty well. To recap here:

  • Keep the kids in school.
  • The medical experts – defined as CDC, Ohio Public Health, and Hamilton County Public Health – say masks should be worn by all students Pre K-12.
  • The first three days of school in Loveland with the parent choice mask optional showed 70-75% of students wearing masks in Pre K-6 grade indicating a concern by the parental community for the health and safety of that age group.

Not everybody agrees. After all, the School Board vote was not unanimous at 3-2 in favor of supporting the recommendation of Superintendent Mike Broadwater. It is a difficult decision with no absolute right or wrong answer. He was chosen to lead, given the trust of the community, and there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Mike Broadwater’s efforts to do what is best for the Loveland School students and staff. At the end of the day, Broadwater makes it very clear his number one priority is educating the kids in school, in a healthy and safe environment which promotes social and emotional well-being for all the kids.

“At some point, for me, black and white as an educator, if I want to keep kids in school, then I have to follow the guidelines so I can keep kids in school,” Broadwater said. “When it starts to tick up, I’d rather be a little bit more preemptive than wait and react. If that means we are masked for two weeks or four weeks, so be it. We have provided opportunity for kids to get outside and for teachers to take their masks off.”

CLICK HERE to visit the Loveland Schools website.