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AVON, Ind. — More than 40 Indiana counties, including Hendricks County, are now in the Indiana State Health Department’s highest risk category for COVID-19 community spread.

Hendricks County has been in the red advisory level for back to back weeks now, prompting Avon Community Schools to once again require masks for all students and staff.

”The cases this year have been even more significant than what we saw last year,” said Scott Wyndham, the Avon Community School Corp. Superintendent.

Wyndham said he pictured a much more normal school year back in August.

”We certainly hoped we wouldn’t go back to red,” Wyndham said.

But Hendricks County has. With the return of the mandatory mask policy, Wyndham hopes it will have a similar effect as it did earlier this school year.

”We saw significant decline in cases as a result,” Wyndham said.

The school system has been masks optional for secondary schools since Nov. 9. That’s when the school board passed policies based on local data to dictate the Avon Schools mask requirement.

”There’s really only two situations where we would return to the masks required at our secondary schools,” said Wyndham. “One was if our county, Hendricks County, had been red for two weeks or if any of our schools reached 10% of the student body had been quarantined.”

Wyndham also stressed mask mandates help keep kids in school, something he said all parents want.

”Everybody agrees they want their kids in school and quarantines are having a significant impact on our kids,” he said.

An Executive Order issued from Gov. Holcomb back in Sept. said any schools with a mask mandate would not need to quarantine students considered a close contact with a classmate infected with COVID. Wyndham said this keeps more kids in class for end of semester finals.

”We won’t have to quarantine near as many kids at the secondary levels in this last week and half of school,” said Wyndham.

Amid this new wave of COVID-19 across Indiana, all but one Indiana county is in the orange or red categories.

With holidays on the way Stephen Swinney, the Chief Clinical Office at Ascension Indiana, said kids can be a major key in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

”If kids get the infection they can spread it to their parents and grandparents where the risk is significantly higher,” Swinney said.

Wyndham is hoping with vaccines available to all school age children, enough could get vaccinated and help ease back on protocols.

”By the end of January we could look at relaxing the mask mandate and making it masks recommended at all of our schools,” said Wyndham.

Avon Schools will move back to masks recommended once Hendricks County moves out of the red advisory level for two consecutive weeks.

We reached out to other schools in counties with red advisory levels to see if any other school systems will be changing mask requirements. We will update this story when we hear back.