Feb 18, 2022 - COVID

Central Ohio schools begin unmasking again

Illustration of a school bus wearing a mask.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A "freedom convoy" of protesters planned to circle the Gahanna-Jefferson administrative offices today to pressure officials to drop a student mask mandate.

  • Turns out they didn't need to.

What's happening: As of Thursday, officials at the Gahanna-Jefferson school district made wearing masks optional — and most other central Ohio districts are doing the same.

  • As the Omicron variant wanes, educators are feeling the pressure to join in another "great unmasking," as Axios' Tina Reed calls it.

Why it matters: Nearly two years into the pandemic, masks remain a polarizing topic in schools. Politics play a big role in area policies, which have tended to be more reactive to COVID-19 surges than proactive.

State of play: Mandates are dropping in a domino effect.

  • South-Western ended its requirement today.
  • Dublin and Westerville will Tuesday.
  • Upper Arlington does Feb. 28.

Yes, but: Columbus City Schools, the first district to announce a mask mandate for all students last summer, has no plans to change its policy, spokesperson Jacqueline Bryant tells Axios.

What they're saying: "The superintendent has followed the guidance of our local health officials," and that advice hasn't changed, Bryant says.

Meanwhile, the city of Columbus and a handful of suburbs announced Wednesday they'll likely be lifting mask mandates for public spaces soon.


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