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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Parma students return to class with mask mandate. Beachwood extended its break; kids back Thursday

Masks have been controversial among parents at Parma schools, but superintendent Charles Smialek said the surge in COVID-19 cases forced the decision.
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Masks have been controversial among parents at Parma schools, but superintendent Charles Smialek said the surge in COVID-19 cases forced the decision.

The Parma City School District reinstated its district-wide mask mandate this week, as students and staff returned from winter break.

The school district wanted to provide better protection from COVID-19 given the surge in case numbers in Cuyahoga county, according to Parma Superintendent Charles Smialek. So far, he said, the students are following the mandate.

“Quite frankly, it's always been a success with kids. Our students do an excellent job of complying with that. We have some adults that are frustrated and try to cite different studies, but we're going to continue to rely upon the information that we have from the CDC, from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and the Ohio Department of Health. And all are still clearly behind masks as a deterrent to the spread,” Smialek told Ideastream Public Media.

The district started the year with a mask requirement but ended it in early November. The current mandate will stay in place until further notice, Smialek said.

“You want to be able to make a decision and let that stand for at least four or five or six weeks at a time. And so, you know, it's going to take a significant decrease in cases in our communities and our county,” he said.

Parma schools has received COVID-19 tests from the Ohio Department of Education to administer to students and staff on an as-needed basis.

This Friday, the school district will offer a free vaccine clinic at its central office at 5311 Longwood Avenue from 3 - 7 p.m. for anyone age 5 and up.

Beachwood City Schools

Students with the Beachwood City School district will return to the classroom Thursday after their winter break was extended because of concerns over the spike in coronavirus cases. The administration wanted to spend the beginning of the week implementing some safety steps. 

The district held a COVID-19 testing clinic earlier in the week for any student or staff member who wanted one.

Roughly 500 PCR tests were administered, many of them to student-athletes who were told they must test negative in order to participate, according to Beachwood Superintendent Robert Hardis. Additionally, he said, the district will continue to enforce its strict, universal mask policy.

“Every employee, every student is masked all day long, obviously outside of eating lunch. And so we feel very confident that this is one of the safest places, that school is one of the safest places that kids can be. And we don't want to return to remote learning,” Hardis told Ideastream Public Media.

Hardis said he feels very supported by the Beachwood community, which has a roughly 85% vaccination rate.

“I feel very fortunate to serve this community. They have kept the safety of their children first, been incredibly supportive of everything we've tried to do in order to make sure our schools are safe for the kids and for the staff,” Hardis said.

Copyright 2022 WCPN. To see more, visit WCPN.

Jenny Hamel is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media and calls the eastside of Cleveland home. Prior to that, she was a reporter for KCRW, the NPR affiliate in Los Angeles, covering a range of issues from immigration to politics.