CONNEAUT — Masks will be strongly recommended and encouraged for students and staff at Conneaut Area City Schools starting on March 7, instead of required.

“After participating in county and UH webinars the past two weeks, and after consultation with the Conneaut Health Department, beginning March 7, masks will be strongly encouraged and recommended for students and staff in the Conneaut Area City School District, but not required,” Conneaut Area City Schools Superintendent Lori Riley said in an email.

Previously, masks had been required for students and staff at Conneaut schools. The change in policy is due to a downward trend in cases and hospitalizations.

Masks will still be required on school transportation, due to federal requirements, and the district reserves the right to require masks at certain events, Riley said in the email.

Students who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are vaccinated will have to wear a mask in school for 10 days, and students who are exposed to COVID-19 and are not vaccinated will have to quarantine for five days, Riley said in the email.

The district’s requirements are in line with quarantine and isolation guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, which were updated late last month, Riley said when reached via telephone.

Riley said she and School Nurse Louise Cleveland were encouraged by COVID-19 case numbers in Ashtabula County and northeast Ohio.

Masks have been required in Conneaut schools for the duration of the pandemic, she said.

“We will continue to look and if it gets bad in the county again, we may want to go ahead and require [masks] for everybody,” Riley said.

Riley said she hopes the majority of families will continue to have their children wear masks to school.

“The safety of our students and staff continues to be our number-one concern,” Riley said. “We felt that we are at a point where, if people want to make that choice, that’s going to be up to them.”

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