The Crawfordsville Community School Corp. board voted unanimously Thursday to change the district’s mask policy as a rising number of students test positive for COVID-19.
Under the new policy, masks will be required for 14 days when a school’s total number of positive cases reaches 2-1/2% of the student population, the district’s highest rate last year. The change takes effect Monday.
The district began the school year with masks optional. Superintendent Dr. Scott Bowling, who recommended the change, called the measure a “targeted approach” to limit the spread of the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Bowling said the new rules were designed not to be open-ended, acknowledging the division over masks. The percentage baseline is a rolling total that can be revisited.
“I’ll be transparent, well, this is an attempt at a compromise,” Bowling said.
As of Tuesday, 13 students had tested positive since the school year began on Aug. 9, the district reported. By Thursday, there were more positive student cases than during the district’s highest week of infections last year.
Eight students from the same classroom at Nicholson Elementary have tested positive, but were already quarantined when the results came back, the district said.
Though cases are going up, administrators say fewer students are being quarantined thanks to the vaccine, which is not yet authorized for children under 12.
Under district policy, vaccinated students and staff are contact traced but not sent home unless they have symptoms. Bowling said administrators were working with local health officials to find ways to further limit quarantines.
Students are settling into the classroom amid high transmission of the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19. The rate of weekly cases per capita has increased from 54 on July 1 to over 290 this week, according to the Montgomery County Health Department.
The infection rate is significantly higher for unvaccinated people, the department said.
Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Scott Douglas, who attended the board meeting, said the new mask policy was a “step in the right direction.”
Parents supporting universal masking in schools said they appreciated the efforts to find a compromise. But they said the policy change doesn’t go far enough because of limited coverage of coronavirus tests, though more people are being tested as cases rise.
They said masks should be worn before the schools reach their highest level of infections and questioned why a districtwide mandate was not in place as Bowling recommended postponing Hoover Elementary’s upcoming fifth grade camping trip.
Jim Cherry, who said one of his child’s classmates was being quarantined, called masks “a very small price to pay” to keep schools open. He said trusting families to choose whether to mask doesn’t acknowledge the pandemic’s reality.
“Family choice is great for ordering pizza, not crushing pandemics,” he said.