Schools

North parents speak out on COVID-19 policies

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LINDEN — The North Montgomery Community School Corp. board heard competing demands from parents Monday on how the district should handle its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 30 parents gathered in the high school auditorium for the opportunity to speak out on masking, quarantines and other COVID-19 policies at the special public hearing.

Like the rest of the county’s school districts, North Montgomery began the new year with a mask-optional policy for students, staff and visitors, even as public health experts urged universal masking in schools.

As the district realized how much more contagious the delta variant of COVID-19 is than earlier waves of the virus, the board changed course — setting a threshold for requiring everyone to wear masks in schools with high positivity rates.

The high school had to be moved to remote learning for the week leading up to Labor Day amid a spike in cases and scores of other students quarantined or absent.

North Montgomery’s own data has indicated cases have fallen in schools with temporary mask requirements, and the state says close contacts don’t have to quarantine when everyone in the building is wearing a mask all day. The district says it’s following the data.

Parent Mandy Johnson, a healthcare professional, said quarantines and absences could have been prevented by requiring masks from day one.

“Most students have no issue wearing a mask — they are used to it,” Johnson said. “It’s the parents that have issues with the masking.”

Supporters of universal masking say the board should listen to public health guidance and not wait until the virus has already gained a foothold in a school before requiring masks.

“These are not just political people that are giving you recommendations based on just willy nilly what they think or what they want to do, they are giving you these recommendations because this is what the science says, because this is what is needed,” said parent Summer Ervin, who serves on the Montgomery County Health Board.

More parents spoke against the district’s policies — saying families, not school administrators, should make the decision on masks and calling for an end to quarantining asymptomatic close contacts.

The Indiana State Department of Health’s current guidance states that anyone unmasked who was within 6 feet of a positive case must quarantine, unless they are fully vaccinated or have been ill with COVID-19 in the past three months and recovered, and without any symptoms.

“Nelson Mandela once said there could be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children,” said parent Jacob Miller, quoting the late South African anti-apartheid leader. “By that standard, our society now has the soul of an abusive parent.”

Miller said mitigation policies were necessary at the beginning of the pandemic when there was a lack of knowledge about COVID-19, but said social distancing and masks hinder learning.

Megan Templeman, a first grade teacher’s aide at Sugar Creek Elementary, said children need to return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

Templeman longs for the days of working in groups for longer than 15 minutes, sitting on the rug for storytime and helping students develop speaking skills without masks. She said her students were tired of being asked to pull up their masks and “many other things that I constantly repeat every single day.”

“They are tired of us telling them all the things that we can’t do.”

 

 

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