Schools

SEF updates mask policy

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VEEDERSBURG — Southeast Fountain School Corp. will require masks when coronavirus infection rates hit a certain point, becoming the latest district to update its masking policy.

The new policy, which the school board approved last week, requires masks when an individual school’s positivity rate reaches 3% of the student population. Other local schools have set similar thresholds.

Rates currently aren’t high enough to trigger the action. Just under 2% of students in grades K-6 and 1% of students in grades 7-12 have tested positive for the virus, according to the district.

“We’re trying to be proactive in case we do get to a place [where] we have to enact [a mandate],” superintendent Dr. Tania Grimes said.

Masks remain optional for students, staff and visitors, but are recommended in situations where social distance cannot be maintained.

If a school’s positivity rate reaches 5% or higher or staffing levels are insufficient, distance learning would be implemented. Case levels will be reevaluated every two weeks.

Throughout the pandemic, parents have come out strongly opposed to a mask mandate. Grimes said about 35 people were in the audience for the special board meeting, and seven people spoke against changing the policy.

The meeting came two days after Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order easing quarantine rules for schools with a mask mandate. Schools no longer have to quarantine asymptomatic students, teachers or staff who are close contacts if everyone in the building was wearing a mask throughout the day.

Since the beginning of the school year, more than 200 students and staff district-wide have been quarantined, including some who were contact-traced outside of school, Grimes said.

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