Youngstown Diocese says Catholic schools can lift mask mandate


The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown has said schools can lift their mask requirements after Christmas.

But it remains to be decided whether Catholic schools in Stark County will revert to a policy of voluntary masking.

In a letter to families on Monday, Mary Fiala, superintendent of schools for the diocese, wrote that the mask mandate for schools and school events, which began in August, will remain in place until Christmas. She cited the high number of COVID-19 cases in counties under the jurisdiction of the diocese, which include Stark, Portage, Mahoning, Columbiana, Trumbull and Ashtabula.

Following:Most Stark County Schools Mandate Lifting Mask Under New COVID-19 Quarantine Rules

She said that waiting for Christmas also gives families the option to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they wish.

From January, schools can adopt a voluntary masking policy, Fiala wrote. She said wearing masks is always “strongly encouraged” for students, staff and volunteers.

Fiala cited the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 and over, the minimal spread of the virus in schools and the low number of people who have been quarantined as the reasons for the mask’s mandate being lifted. in January.

“The vaccines are a sign of hope and offer another layer of protection, Fiala wrote, noting that the COVID-19 vaccine is supported by the Catholic Church.

Fiala, who said vaccinations will not be mandatory in schools, said the diocese is supporting schools that may want to continue the mask’s mandate.

Kristie Cramer, spokesperson for Catholic Schools in Stark County, said Monday afternoon that local school officials were continuing to review information released by the diocese on Monday.

“Principals will review updated diocesan policy, examine trends in their schools and local community, and consult with their local health departments, then inform each of their school communities in the coming weeks of plans for each school,” he said. Cramer said.

Students would still be required to wear a mask on the school bus.

While the diocese may lift its mask requirements, its other existing protocols, such as physical distancing, frequent hand washing and sanitation, will continue.

Fiala said schools will follow the state’s updated masking and quarantine procedures, which no longer require unmasked and unvaccinated students and school staff to quarantine themselves at home. they come into close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 at school.

Instead, they can stay in class if they don’t develop symptoms and wear a mask for 14 days or have a negative result from a test taken five to seven days after exposure.

Fiala also called on families to show kindness and compassion and take care of each other.

Contact Kelli at 330-580-8339 or [email protected]

On Twitter: @kweirREP

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