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Strongly recommend vs. required: Face mask debate in local schools heats up

Parents in Mayfield push for mandatory masks
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Posted at 3:27 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 15:27:59-04

MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — A decision to strongly recommend but not require masks in schools is creating controversy in Mayfield Heights as the COVID-19 Delta variant rages on.

Now a group of parents with children in Mayfield City Schools are pushing the district to do an about-face.

Dennis McMahon's son, Jackson, is slated to start kindergarten in just a few weeks.

"I think a lot of people are downplaying the risks to children," said McMahon.

However, plans to send the 5-year-old to Millridge Elementary unexpectedly hit a snag.

"We're actually now looking two weeks before school starts to see if there are other options for our son," said McMahon.

The McMahon family, like many others in the Mayfield school system disagree with the superintendent's recent decision to only strongly recommend face masks.

"Unfortunately, it feels like a lot of the decision is political rather than based off of the facts and the health and protection of our children," said McMahon.

In his online statement last week to teachers, staff, parents and students, Dr. Michael Barnes said the Mayfield City School District supports all students or staff members in their choice to wear a face mask.

You can read Barnes' statement, here.

"The fact that they're not requiring masks like most surrounding districts are is very troubling," said McMahon.

Dr. Barnes backed his decision on a few factors:

First, the Ohio Department of Health strongly recommends those not fully vaccinated wear masks indoors. Second, there are currently no statewide mask mandates. And third, according to local health officials, the transmission of COVID-19 in our area remains low right now.

"There's been Facebook groups and things like that have been started for parents to try and combine our efforts and see if we can get them to change their mind," said McMahon.

McMahon told News 5 he is upset that parents had no input leading up to this point, and they found out after the window to sign up for remote learning in the district had closed.

"The fact that he wouldn't provide that information before making that decision is also troubling," said McMahon.

To help keep his son safe, McMahon and his wife are working on alternatives.

"So now we're looking to see if there are private school options, anything else in the area where we think he'll be safer in a place that requires masks," said McMahon.