Westfield Washington school district drops mask mandate as COVID cases decline
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Statewide cases of the coronavirus have begun to plummet, enough that some school districts are dropping their mask mandates.
Although Westfield Washington Schools on Monday dropped its mask mandate, Indianapolis Public Schools and Hamilton Southeastern Schools continued to require masks for all students and staff regardless of their vaccination status.
Students at Westfield Washington and at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School are no longer forced to wear masks inside classrooms. Some Indiana parents say they don’t think masks were necessary.
“For over a year now, I have not seen any benefit to masking children,” said Ben Orr, a parent in Hamilton County.
Westfield Washington representatives say the most recent surge of the omicron variant is past its peak and causing district and state COVID-19 case numbers to steeply decline. They say masks will be recommended in the school district, and will remain mandatory on school buses.
Brebeuf representatives say they’re returning to their mask-optional policy, but will support students and staff members who want to continue wearing masks.
Hospitals are still asking people to wear masks despite the decrease in cases.
Dr. Christopher Belcher, medical director of infection disease at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital, said Monday, “We need to remember that even if we’re not overwhelmed as a hospital, we don’t like seeing people sick in our hospitals, so stay well, distance, mask, wash your hands, get all your vaccines up to date, and do the best thing you can for your health.”
According to the website of Hamilton Southeastern Schools, masks are required indoors for all faculty and students.
Orr has children in the school system. He says he doesn’t agree with the mask mandate. He also believes the mandate is not enforced all the time. “As soon as the school day is over, they can do what they want with masking in the same building, the same facilities with all the same staff and same students.”
He hopes the mask mandate will be removed in the future. “It does make me hopeful through, I guess, peer pressure if it comes to that, that some of the surrounding districts dropping the mask mandates will eventually flow over.”
IPS sent a statement to News 8 about its mask requirements.
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“Indianapolis Public Schools continues to require mask wearing in schools for students and staff regardless of vaccination status.
“In Indiana, overall COVID positivity rates are high and vaccination rates among students under age 17 are extremely low.
“Additionally, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) continues to recommend masking in school settings when indoors. Research shows that virus transmission in schools is low, especially when masking policies are enacted.
“For details on the district’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including information on mask requirement and CDC guidance for K-12 schools, including isolations and quarantines, click here.”
Statement from Indianapolis Public Schools on Feb. 14, 2022