MENTOR, Ohio — Editor's note: The video in the player above is from a previously published story.
On Wednesday, Mentor Public Schools Superintendent Bill Porter announced a 180 degree shift on the district's mask policies entering the 2021-2022 school year.
In a video posted to Youtube Wednesday afternoon, Porter announced that masks and face coverings will no longer be optional inside of school buildings.
"As we continue to closely monitor how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our community here in Mentor, again a lot has changed since my last update to you a little over two weeks ago," Porter says at the beginning of the video.
Porter goes on to say with COVID-19 cases once again on the rise, and the delta variant spreading more easily than the virus' alpha strain, it's important to put the health and safety of those within the district first, utilizing a mask mandate to start the year.
"With the new information we have it has become abundantly clear that for Mentor schools to be able to stay open for in-person learning, we need to require face coverings in school, at least to start the year," Porter says.
The new policy will take effect immediately, according to the superintendent, and will remain in place until further notice. The district will allow medical exemptions that have been approved by a physician.
This decision comes just one day after Ohio Governor Mike DeWine pleaded with Ohio schools and parents to have children wear masks, as Ohio once again reports thousands of new COVID-19 cases daily.
"Our students can't afford another disrupted school year. We need them in the classroom," Gov. DeWine said Tuesday. "The best way to protect them is to send them to school with masks."
"I completely understand this decision will be controversial," the Mentor Public Schools superintendent says, explaining his decision to return to a mask requirement to start the school year. "I know we are all hoping for more of a return to a sense of normalcy for our children in our schools starting this new school year."
Porter goes on to state that in just two weeks, since addressing Mentor families on August 3, Lake County has gone from the CDC's classification for moderate spread of COVID-19, all the way to high transmission, where it stands today.
"Our team wants to do everything we can to keep schools open for in-person learning five days a week and avoid going fully remote. For anyone who has not specifically chosen an online option for their family, starting the year in universal masking will most certainly help us stay open," Porter said Wednesday.
The superintendent does clarify that this is only for indoor buildings at this time, and does not include recess and other outdoor events.
"We are looking forward to the start of a new school year and seeing our students back in class for the first day of school on Tuesday."
You can watch the full address made by the superintendent in the player below:
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