WARSAW — Beginning Friday, Sept. 10, Warsaw Community Schools will require masks for all students, staff, and visitors during the school day, regardless of vaccination status.
The change in policy was approved by the board in a 5-1 vote Tuesday, Sept. 7, and encompasses all school buildings, the district said in a news conference.
The masking requirement will be deployed whenever Kosciusko County is in the orange or red zone categories on the Indiana State Department of Health map, according to a news release issued Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, Sept. 8, Kosciusko County was in the “orange” category. When Kosciusko County is in the yellow zone for two consecutive weeks, masks will return to “recommended but optional.”
WCS Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert issued the following statement:
“We all long for normality during this continued time of COVID. As exemplified during the 2020-21 school year, our local schools are the bedrock of the community. During a year of abnormality, we were able to provide a stable environment. In-person instruction is needed for student academic and social well-being along with economic and community health. Our number one priority must be a safe, in-person educational environment.”
Within the first four weeks of the 2021-22 school year, COVID-19 numbers have spiked due to the highly contagious Delta variant. These numbers reflect positive cases experienced during the height of the 2020-21 school year. Our local health department has noted substantial community spread that led to the creation of new recommendations for additional mitigation strategies. Due to this similar spread throughout Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb issued a new Executive Order 21-24 on Sept. 1 for all K-12 schools. On Tuesday, Sept. 7, our school board met to review the executive order and local health department recommendations.
During the school day, masks will be required regardless of vaccination status for all students, staff, and visitors in all indoor WCS school buildings and on buses.
By wearing masks, WCS expects to reduce quarantines significantly, which will increase the likelihood of maintaining full-time in-person learning as well as continued opportunities for co- and extra-curricular activities. Our number one priority is to provide our students and community a safe in-person educational environment.
“A compelling benefit of the mask mandate (per the governor’s executive order) is that instructional and social activities may return to pre-COVID conditions; a three-foot or six-foot radius is required between students when masking is no longer required. Healthy students will now be able to engage in more interactive instructional strategies with their peers without the risk of being quarantined.”
Hoffert also pointed out:
- Staff will provide students with opportunities, as allowed by state health protocols, to remove masks at appropriate times when eating, engaged in physical activity, outdoor learning, and when six feet of physical distance is possible.
- Quarantines from outside of the school settings, as well as those close contacts from non-classroom settings, extracurricular activities, and athletics may still be subject to quarantine. In accordance with the Indiana State Health Department, vaccinated (asymptomatic) students and staff remain exempt from contact-traced quarantines.
- WCS will continue to encourage social distancing and frequent hand washing/sanitizing in addition to our other layered mitigation protocols.