Schools

South sets threshold for requiring masks

District: Cases remain below levels to enact policy

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NEW MARKET — South Montgomery Community School Corp. has set the marker for requiring masks to limit the spread of COVID-19, though cases remain below levels where the policy would be enacted.

The strategy, which the school board approved unanimously in an emergency meeting on Friday, mandates face coverings when a school’s positivity rate reaches 3% of the student population for two consecutive days on a rolling seven-day average. Crawfordsville and North Montgomery have adopted similar per-school thresholds.

Since the start of classes two-and-a-half weeks ago, South Montgomery has seen 14 positive student coronavirus cases, the district reported. The count represents less than 1% of all students.

The district said it was seeking a proactive approach to curbing coronavirus infections in the schools amid the delta variant surge.

“Our numbers look great, we’re going to knock on wood and hope we stay great,” superintendent Dr. Shawn Greiner told the board. “But we also know that things change quickly with this variant.”

The special meeting came one day after North Montgomery High School moved to e-learning until after Labor Day because of a spike in student cases. Also this week, Crawfordsville Middle School began requiring masks after its infection rate surpassed the threshold.

Under South Montgomery’s policy, masks will no longer be required after 15 calendar days if the school’s positivity rate has dropped below the threshold by day 12. However, face coverings would still be strongly encouraged.

Masks must be worn for an additional 14 days if the rate remains at or above 3%, the policy states.

Board members said the strategy is a way to ensure schools stay  open for in-person instruction if cases spike.

“I’ve talked to medical professionals locally — besides [county health officer] Dr. [Scott] Douglas — and I’ve talked to ER nurses and I’ve talked to parents, and I assure you they are much more concerned about their kids’ mental health right now and their ability to get back to normal and not virtual learning,” said member Julie Hess.

Member George Spencer said while it’s important to maintain in-person learning, he believes the delta surge will get worse before the situation improves.

“I fully agree the need is to get back to normal, but the problem is we created a problem by not getting fully vaccinated a year ago, or six months ago,” Spencer said.

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