Central Indiana school districts move to stricter mask guidelines as COVID-19 cases surge

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS– Students at several central Indiana schools are now wearing masks after officials changed their mandates.

“In the first week and a half in school, the number of positive cases has been higher than any other point in the entire 2020-2021 school year,” said Dr. Larry Young, Assistant Superintendent at Pike Township Schools.

That same issue led to Brownsburg, Noblesville, Carmel Clay, Lawrence Township, Hamilton Southeastern, Washington Township, Westfield Washington Schools and Pike Township announcing masks would be required regardless of vaccination status.

“What we’ve tried to do is just follow the science,” said Don Kite, president of the Washington Township School Board. “We know for many people it’s become a political issue, but for us, it’s about doing the most for our children.”

Kite said it’s also important for parents to remember these guidelines are fluid.

“All of these things could change,” Kite said. “We also don’t want to whiplash our parents back and forth every week. We need to do the most we can and then stick with that.”

“Absolutely there was frustration about the timing of this decision,” said Lawrence Township parent Kelly Hage. She has two young children enrolled in Lawrence Township schools.

While she says she’s relieved by the policy change, Hage says stricter guidelines should have been made before the school year began.

“I hope those parents who disagree can choose to understand the CDC’s recommendations, the AAP recommendations, and maybe agree to disagree but take that step to keep other kids safe,” Hage said.

Other parents are frustrated with any mandates from schools.

We reached out to Noblesville, Lawrence Township and Hamilton Southeastern, but they did not provide an interview. Instead, they provided statements which are located below.

Noblesville:

“In an effort to keep our schools open and minimize learning disruptions, we will be moving to an indoor mask requirement for all staff, students and visitors PreK-12 effective Monday, August 16, 2021. 

Please note approved masks include cloth, neck gaiter, disposal or medical grade. Bandanas are not approved for use as a mask and face shields will only be used by select staff and students in specific, approved situations. 

The mask requirement is just one level of protection and we strongly encourage staff, students and families who are eligible to receive a COVID vaccination. Vaccinations have been shown to significantly slow the spread of COVID and protect against severe illness and death. Please see details below about an upcoming immunization clinic we’re hosting.”

Hamilton Southeastern:

“Our goal of requiring masks is to keep our students healthy, learning in-person and our buildings open. Our community has made it clear they don’t want to have to go back to a full-time virtual learning environment, so we are trying to follow the guidance issued by our local and state health officials in order to keep everyone in school.”

Lawrence Township:

“Effective August 16, all staff, students, and visitors will be required to wear a mask while inside any MSD of Lawrence Township building, regardless of vaccination status, as we work to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and its variants. By requiring all individuals to wear masks, we can reduce the need to quarantine, disrupt student learning, and negatively affect families’ ability to work. COVID-19 data from the opening of school and subsequent quarantines have demonstrated the need for this shift. This requirement will remain in place until further notice.”

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