Schools change mask requirements as cases fall

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

After a month of requiring masks in classroom settings, Dubois County public schools are making masks optional again as long as COVID-19 cases in both the county and the individual schools remain below a certain level.

Parents and guardians with children in the county school system were notified last week that masks will be optional but recommended beginning Oct. 4, based on current COVID-19 data.

All county public schools will use the same guidelines to determine how mask requirements may change. If a school’s number of active cases is lower than 4% of the total number of students, masks will be recommended in a classroom setting. If a school’s number of active cases is higher than 4%, masks will be required in a classroom setting for two weeks. The county's COVID-19 advisory level will also be taken into account.

When masks are optional, contract tracing will still be required for those within six feet of the positive case. If masks are required, contract tracing will not be required.

Exposure in outdoor settings, such as recess or physical education class, will not require contract tracing. Exposure in indoor settings where masks can’t be worn, such as lunch, choir and band, will require contract tracing within 6 feet for 15 minutes and quarantine.

Greater Jasper Superintendent Dr. Tracy Lorey said the Jasper schools are following a data-based approach when adapting COVID-19 protocols, while also following what the Indiana State Department of Health and Gov. Eric Holcomb might require at a given time.

“There are a litany of opinions and perspectives and beliefs and thoughts about that, but we are doing our best to try and make decisions based on our data,” she said. “We believe that this is the way we will manage for the foreseeable future … Currently, our numbers are really, really good, but that shifts from day to day.”

In general, Jasper schools are basically handling the pandemic the same way they were last school year, Lorey said.

“It’s no different,” she said. “We continue to monitor our cases, and we continue to ensure that students and staff are working and learning in a safe environment with all of our mitigating protocols, and masks are just one of those things.”

In general, Greater Jasper schools have higher total student COVID-19 cases for the 2021-22 school year than the other county corporations, according to data from the ISDH COVID-19 dashboard. However, all schools in the county had relatively low active caseloads as of Monday afternoon.

Jasper High School reported five new student cases, adding to a total of 59 student cases throughout the school year so far. Jasper Middle School reported fewer than five new student cases for a total of 87 student cases. Jasper Elementary School and Ireland Elementary School also reported fewer than five cases, totaling 44 and 23 student cases, respectively.

Holy Trinity Catholic School reported fewer than five new student cases for a total of 31.

In the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation, Southridge High School reported fewer than five new student cases for a total of 23. Southridge Middle School also reported fewer than five new student cases for a total of 12. Huntingburg Elementary School reported eight new student cases, totaling 25, and Holland Elementary School reported no new student cases for a total of 10.

In the Southeast Dubois County School Corporation, Forest Park Junior-Senior High School reported five new student cases for a total of 22. Pine Ridge Elementary School reported fewer than five new student cases and fewer than five total student cases. Cedar Crest Intermediate School and Ferdinand Elementary School reported no new student cases for a total of six and fewer than five cases, respectively.

In the Northeast Dubois County School Corporation, Northeast Dubois High School reported no new student cases for a total of fewer than five. Northeast Dubois Intermediate School reported fewer than five new student cases, totaling fewer than five cases, and so did Northeast Elementary School.

All schools reported zero or fewer than five new teacher and/or staff cases.

In Indiana, 3,364 new student cases were reported, along with 182 new teacher cases and 317 new staff cases. In total, 30,084 student cases, 1,538 teacher cases, and 2,303 staff cases have been reported in the school year so far.

The school COVID-19 dashboard on the ISDH website updates weekly on Mondays and can be viewed at https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/2393.htm.




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