Masks are mandatory for all students and staff who return to district buildings for onsite instruction.
High school hybrid instruction was to begin Nov. 30 but was postponed, keeping with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health guidance. The district now intends to begin the high school hybrid schedule Jan. 5, 2021 but continues to monitor the rate of COVID-19 infection.
The district’s Fall 2020 Staff Health, Screening, Safety and Absence Guidelines states that masks are required in any indoor location and outdoors if 6 feet social distancing cannot be maintained.
Freshman Lucy Rostetter, who is planning to participate in onsite learning, said she doesn’t object to wearing them. “I have no issues with wearing masks during the school, but worried that everyone won’t wear them,” she wrote via text.
Assistant Principal Scott Bowling wrote that there are now specific protocols for students who refuse to wear masks when onsite learning begins. “We will give the student the opportunity to comply with the rule, but if they will not, we will have to remove them from school and require them to attend classes online. The last thing we want to do is remove a student from school for any reason, but our first duty is to protect the safety of students and staff,” Bowling wrote in an email.
Bowling wrote that he presumes mask wearing and enforcement won’t be an issue with most students. “From conversations with other administrators working in in-person settings, I do not believe this will be a problem for students. Most have told me they have not dealt with any or very few students that refuse to comply with a mask policy,” he wrote.
Scott Stephens, executive director of communications and engagement, wrote that there are options available for those who are unable to wear masks. “Masks are mandatory for students and staff, except in the case of a medical exemption. In those cases, face shields would be necessary,” Stephens wrote in an email. If a student or faculty member requires medical exemption, they would need to complete a face-covering exemption request form and submit documentation from a medical provider.
Enforcing masks may fall upon the teachers in the building. Science teacher William Scanlon said that enforcement won’t be a problem for him.“I feel that people in my classroom are going to be wearing a mask, and if they are not wearing masks, they are no longer welcome,” Scanlon said during a Google Meet interview.
Shaker policy states that masks will be offered to students and teachers, including N95 masks for staff when requested. Unlike regular surgical masks, which mainly protect the wearer from large droplets or splashes, N95s filter out 95 percent of all airborne particles, but they need to fit tightly to be effective.
Per district guidelines, face masks are required to cover the nose, mouth and chin of the wearer, without gaps between face and mask. With prior authorization from the district, face shields are permitted to be worn rather than masks. Reusable face shields and masks should be washed after every use, and disposable shields and masks should be thrown out after each use.
Public comments at the Nov. 17 Board of Education meeting sharply criticized the district’s plan to resume onsite instruction at this time, but Shaker parent MC Fraser said she is pleased with the district’s approach. She said, “I think that the preventative measures that Shaker School systems are taking for safety precautions are in alignment with the CDC’s — Center for Disease Control — suggestions, and I am in full support.”