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JCESC distributing face masks to schools

HANDING THEM OUT — An estimated 2 million face masks are being distributed to schools throughout Ohio to support students, teachers and staff as schools reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, and about 12,000 are being shared locally by the Jefferson County Educational Service Center to benefit districts in Jefferson, Belmont, Harrison and Columbiana counties. (Contributed photo)

STEUBENVILLE — About 12,000 free face masks are being distributed to area schools as a means to help students safely learn amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Education, received 2 million face masks for school children across the state through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the masks will be available to school districts through regional Educational Service Centers.

Patrick Keenan, building and grounds supervisor, retrieved the items from New Philadelphia and will distribute them to the schools within the JCESC’s consortium, which includes districts in Jefferson, Belmont, Harrison and Columbiana counties, said Chuck Kokiko, service center superintendent.

“ESCs throughout the state have historically been service providers to school districts and the state reached out on a number of occasions in the current pandemic to assist with state initiatives,” Kokiko said. “One specifically was Reset/Restart to open the 2020-21 school year for education and the other area is collecting data on the 2020-21 school year, serving district needs and distributing materials. This specific project involved ESCs getting PPE out to Ohio’s public schools.”

Every school student will benefit from the 3M KN-90 masks as they reopen through the coming weeks. The KN-90 masks are not medical grade but will be available to sites within the center’s consortium, which includes Bridgeport Exempted Village, Buckeye Local, Edison Local, Indian Creek Local, Harrison Hills Local, Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ School of Bright Promise, Jefferson County Joint Vocational School, Steubenville City, Southern Local and Toronto City Schools.

In a press release from the state EMA, Gov. Mike DeWine stated the contribution will provide teachers and other school staff with another layer of protection while they educate students.

“Wearing masks is one of the ways to help slow the spread of COVID-19, along with frequent hand washing and maintaining social distancing,” he commented.

School districts should contact their regional ESC to acquire the masks. The JCESC can be reached at (740) 283-3347.

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