COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)– As thousands of central Ohio students return to the classroom this week following winter break, doctors say they’re worried about what could happen in schools with the omicron variant and the latest COVID-19 surge.

They’re worried about the schools where wearing a mask is an option, not a requirement.

“Now more than ever is it more important for our kids to mask up, especially in classrooms,” said Dr. Ben Bring, a family and sports medicine physician with OhioHealth.

Some districts have implemented universal masking: Columbus City Schools, Gahanna-Jefferson, and Hilliard just to name a few.

“You can only control what you can control, and you know sometimes there’s going to be kids that say ‘I’m absolutely not wearing a mask,’ and unfortunately, you can’t control what others may do,” Bring said.

Some districts are currently mask optional for certain grades, such as Dublin City Schools, Pickerington Local Schools, and Olentangy.

“Keeping it under control as we can in these cold winter months and if we just let it run rampant through our schools, we’ll end up with a lot of parents needing to stay home with sick kids, schools going virtual, and that’s no one’s goal,” said Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Thomas said it can have a ripple effect throughout the entire community like staff shortages and parents needing to stay home with a sick child.

“I think every employer in the community needs to be pressuring their school districts to do masking so that we can keep our kids in class,” Thomas said.

Bring thinks about what we did last year to help stem the tide of the pandemic.

“Remember back in June when our case rates were really low — we got out of mask-wearing and I think and I’m hopeful for that for the spring and the summer as well,” he said.

We’ve already seen some schools impacted by COVID shortages — like Reynoldsburg and Columbus City Schools.