Westfield Washington, Brownsburg schools to require masks for all starting Wednesday
WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — Westfield Washington Schools on Wednesday will join three other Hamilton County districts to require masks for students, staff and guests inside their facilities.
Also, Brownsburg Community School Corp.’s board voted 4-1 Monday night to have a mask mandate. Tuesday will be a transition day, but masks will be required starting Wednesday.
Westfield’s Monday announcement came as the district said the resurgence of the coronavirus, and specifically the delta variant, “is jeopardizing our ability to have in-person learning, athletics, performing arts, clubs and special events.”
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said earlier Monday that schools adopting mask mandates “are making a wise decision when the facts warrant it.”
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Last week, Hamilton Southeastern, Carmel Clay and Noblesville schools announced mask mandates that began Monday after major COVID-19 outbreaks disrupted learning in at least one of those school districts.
Sheridan Schools says on its website that masks are optional. Masks are highly recommended in the other Hamilton County district, Hamilton Heights Schools based in Arcadia.
In Marion County, the Lawrence Township school board agreed Friday to begin a mask mandate to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Classes began in the district in northeastern Marion County on Aug. 4. The board’s voice vote was unanimous.
Here are details from Lawrence Township and the four Hamilton County districts now requiring masks:
The Lawrence Township school board agreed Friday to begin a mask mandate to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Classes began in the district in northeastern Marion County on Aug. 4. The board’s voice vote was unanimous.
The district says its goal is to reduce the need to quarantine, disrupt student learning, and negatively impact families’ ability to work.
A message from Lawrence Township Schools said, “COVID-19 data from the opening of school and subsequent quarantines have demonstrated the need for this shift,” but did not provide details.
The special school board meeting was recorded on Vimeo. Some members did not wear masks at the meeting. Three people spoke to the board before its decision.
The district’s leader, Shawn Smith, told the school board the mask mandate “is critical because we need to assure our students are going to be safe and, for me as a school superintendent and educational leader, I need to have my staff safe. I need to make sure that they’re going to be ready to educate our students.”
On Friday, the ninth day of the new school year, 545 students in the Lawrence Township district were quarantined, and 80 students, three teachers, and eight faculty members who don’t work in classrooms have tested positive for COVID-19, Smith said.
According to the district’s data, so far 1,181 students in Brownsburg schools have had to quarantine since the first day of classes on July 29. The board said that total accounts for well over 3,000 days of missed instruction.
The school board said it would review monthly whether to continue its mask mandate.
The district began classes on Aug. 10.
“We can debate the research on masks, depending on which side of the fence you sit on. What we can’t debate is that we want our kids in school. The best way to keep our kids in school is to make sure that they have every opportunity to be safe and the best condition for learning. So based on that, we’re going to change our direction and our policy on masks, based on the updated CDC guidelines,” Superintendent Paul Kaiser said in a video released Monday.
Based on those updated guidelines, Kaiser said, students who are at least 3 feet from a person who tests positive for COVID will not have to quarantine, as long as both parties are wearing a mask.
The district says masking will let them “keep more students in a safe, in-person learning environment” and give them a better chance of getting through the school year “without any major learning disruptions.”
Bandannas will not be accepted as masks, and only select staff and students in approved situations will be allowed to wear face shields.
The Fishers-based school district has had 80 positive COVID-19 cases with over 500 students listed as close contacts since the start of the school year Aug. 4. The district said masks were optional.
Superintendent Yvonne Stokes announced the changes in a video shared on YouTube. A message from the district based in Fishers said students and staff will be required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
“I know this will not make everyone happy, but it is my goal to protect our students and staff andkeep our schools open and running,” the superintendent said.
The district also changed its social distancing requirement from 6 feet apart to 3 feet apart since students will now be wearing masks.
Hamilton Southeastern also is changing its quarantine length for unvaccinated students and staff to 10 days off, or seven days off with a negative COVID-19 test within a specific period of the date of exposure.
“Please remember, these changes are what we believe will keep our students learning in-person, in their classrooms, and that is our goal,” the superintendent said.
A message from Carmel Clay, which began classes for the new year last week, said, “We are witnessing neighboring districts experience a substantial surge in cases and hundreds of students quarantined. We must do everything we can to keep students safe and learning in the classroom.”
Carmel Clay’s message did not say whether the district is experiencing cases of the coronavirus in its buildings.
The mask mandate, which began Monday, “will help keep more students learning in the classroom and possibly avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine.”
The message also said, “We know some oppose mask requirements. However, masks will be required to protect our students and staff and decrease the potential for quarantines.”
Classes began Aug. 3 in the Noblesville district, and masks were optional for students, staff and visitors. The message said cases of the coronavirus are at the peak of what the district experienced in the winter; student absences are at the highest rate ever; and many students are showing up at school with COVID-19 symptoms.
The message also said unvaccinated people are visiting the schools and spreading the coronavirus to unvaccinated and vaccinated people.
“This week we had three major outbreaks that required us to disrupt learning for hundreds of students by quarantining two teams at Noblesville East Middle School and a classroom at White River (Elementary). This was in addition to many other individual quarantines throughout the district,” the district’s message said.
Bandannas are not considered to be acceptable for use as masks, and face shields will only be used by select staff and students in specific, approved situations.
The district also encouraged people to get vaccinated. The district will have an immunization clinic with the Pfizer vaccine from 3-7 p.m. Aug. 25 for students and adults 12 and older. The clinic will be at Noblesville Schools Community Center, 1775 Field Drive. People can sign up online for the clinic.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.