The Tippecanoe School Corporation decided on Wednesday to make masks optional in the district starting Monday – after months of policy debate.
School board president Brian DeFreese voted to lift the mask mandate. He said there were still concerns about the possibility of a repeat of the start of this school year – when the manufacture of optional masks led to an increase in quarantines among pupils.
“The hope is that we can make it optional,” he said. “The fear is that another variant will come and everything will go crazy again.”
Earlier in the fall semester, TSC changed from optional mask wearing to a mask requirement after seeing a disproportionately high number of quarantines.
DeFreese said Gov. Eric Holcomb could lift the COVID-19 emergency in March and the school board doesn’t want to wait until its next meeting to change its masking guidelines.
“People on both sides don’t understand how much we care about our students’ attendance at school,” he said. “All of our decisions were based on that. Also in this context, we don’t want to send the message that we should break laws or ignore executive orders. »
“Within the law that we have, we’ve tried to do our best to keep the kids in school and healthy,” DeFreese concluded.
Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said he advised TSC officials to keep a mask requirement in place.
“Due to our high community transmission and to be consistent with the CDC’s current recommendation, which continues to be that masks should be universally required in K-12 schools,” he said.
Adler said COVID numbers have gone down — but the virus is still very much in the community.
“Tippecanoe County is still designated as a high community transmission county by the Indiana Department of Health and the CDC,” he said. “When you combine that with our less than optimal vaccination rate and think about the prolonged close contact that occurs in the school environment, there is of course the potential for increased spread in schools with no mask requirement.”
The Lafayette School Corporation and West Lafayette Community School Corporation plan to keep mask requirements in place.
When contacted for comment, LSC Superintendent Les Huddle said the district will wait to see what happens with the statewide health emergency, as well as what health departments in Tippecanoe State and County would recommend.
“We’re seeing our positive numbers drop and just as importantly with the mask mandate still in place, we’re seeing our quarantine numbers drop,” Huddle said. “It helped keep a lot of students in school.”
WLSC Superintendent Shawn Greiner said there is no discussion about changing mask requirements at this time.
“We are working closely with the medical experts and continue to follow the instructions of our consulting physicians,” he said.