COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus City Schools announced Thursday that it will require facemasks to be worn at schools and on buses to begin the 2021-22 school year.

A statement from the district read in part, “The District will require all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks inside buildings and on school buses for the start of the 2021-2022 school year based on recommendations from The American Academy of Pediatrics, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and in consultation with Columbus Public Health.”

A news release from the district said that the APP recommends masks in schools for anyone older than 2 regardless of vaccination status, unless other conditions prohibit their use.

“Safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall is a priority, and masks provide an extra layer of protection in reducing transmission of the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Talisa Dixon, Columbus City Schools superintendent and CEO. “Throughout this pandemic, we have relied on the guidance of our public health officials. We feel that this is the best decision for our District and community.”

The District will follow these guidelines:

  • Masks required for all students on buses and in school buildings with or without vaccination
  • Masks required for all staff in school buildings and administrative sites with or without vaccination
  • Three feet of social distancing between students where practical
  • Water fountains will not be used
  • School visitors will be restricted to parents/guardians and the District’s student support partners, and visitors will be required to wear masks.

“The pandemic is not over and case numbers are rising again because of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in our community,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus’ health commissioner. “Kids need to be in the classroom where they can learn and thrive, and masks are an important tool for protecting staff and students who are too young to get vaccinated.”

Vaccines against COVID-19 are not yet approved for those younger than 12.

Sports activities, practices, and extracurricular activities, including the marching band and drill team, will resume in accordance with all health and safety guidelines, the district said.