MOUNT VERNON -- Mount Vernon City Schools will require all students and staff to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, starting Thursday.
Mount Vernon is the third district in Knox County to reverse its initial mask-optional policy since the school year began.
"The number of students placed in quarantine, from within and outside of the school setting, continues to rise daily," superintendent Bill Seder wrote on the district website Wednesday. "As hundreds of students are quarantined, attendance and therefore, student learning is negatively impacted.
"For every positive student the potential quarantine impact can be extremely high especially in the Middle School and High School where students may have up to seven (7) classes."
The district currently has 37 active student cases and four active staff cases, according to its dashboard, which was last updated Sept. 1.
The district will monitor COVID-19 cases and quarantines during September and adjust policies accordingly based on the prevalence of the virus within the student body and local community, Seder wrote.
"We understand and respect the strong opinions relative to this topic," Seder wrote. "None of us want to be wearing a mask or continue dealing with the negative impacts of COVID. Please respect our charge to keep students safe and educate students realizing that we can’t perform those vital functions if they are home sick or quarantined."
Symptom-free students who are currently quarantined after being identified as a close contact in a school setting will be allowed to return to school in-person Thursday, because everyone will be wearing a mask, Seder wrote.
The district will encourage frequent mask breaks and the use of outdoor learning spaces, according the its website.
The mask mandate applies to all indoor school-day settings. Masks are not mandated at outdoor venues and extra-curricular activities at this time, according to the district website.
One of Mount Vernon's elementary schools, Wiggin Street Elementary, has had a mask mandate since the start of the school year because of a Gambier ordinance mandating mask-wearing inside public places within the village.
Two other districts in Knox County implemented indoor mask mandates this week.
Fredericktown began mandating masks for students Wednesday, and began mandating masks for staff earlier on Monday. East Knox began mandating masks on the fourth day of the school year following positive cases and subsequent quarantines. Danville Elementary implemented a mask mandate Monday, but masks remain optional in Danville's other building.