Southwestern Allen County Schools are planning a year of traditional in-person classes where masks will be optional for all students and staff.
Masks will only be compulsory on buses by federal decree.
The five-member school board unanimously approved these and other changes – including welcoming back school visitors – to the district’s back-to-class plan on Tuesday night.
The revised guidelines from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on wearing masks in schools were not mentioned. The agency said on Friday that vaccinated teachers and students did not need to wear masks inside school buildings.
Fort Wayne Community Schools and Northwest Allen County Schools also implemented relaxed mask guidelines this month, and the East Allen County School Board formalized in May its desire for a optional policy to hide next school year, if conditions are right.
SACS ‘only distance learning option for 2021-2022 is eSACS Virtual High School, which caters to students in Grades 6 to 12. It must be selected during online registration and the commitment is at least one semester. Although the eSACS was launched last year, its development predated the pandemic.
Superintendent Park Ginder described the reviews as the best way to serve the community at this time – balancing multiple constituents and issues – while continuing near-daily conversations “with those above us,” an apparent reference to health officials.
“The plan as it is written was not done in a vacuum,” Ginder told an audience including parents.
The revised policy also states that vaccinated students and staff will not need to self-quarantine when identified as close contact if they do not have any symptoms. The district will not keep records of COVID-19 immunizations, Ginder said.
Parents seemed eager to change the quarantine protocol further, especially after Ginder said 1,200 students at Homestead High School were quarantined last year, and according to the school’s tally, no “n ‘was a secondary transmission’. Homestead’s enrollment was approximately 2,500 students.
One parent described it as a lot of missed education and questioned the need for quarantines.
Ginder asked for patience. Last year’s administrative team “flew high” in the six weeks and two days before Homestead received its first case of COVID-19 and conditions changed, he said.
SACS high schools temporarily switched to online-only courses last fall due to a staff shortage due to the pandemic. Homestead finished the school year with 50 student cases, according to the state school’s coronavirus dashboard.
Board chairman Bradley Mills expects the plan to continue to change. He said Tuesday’s adjustments are a big step.
“Hopefully we can take another big step in a month or two,” Mills said.