INDIANAPOLIS — Several Indiana organizations for educators and school officials say they support the state’s decision to allow districts to make their own call on mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions.
This week, Gov. Eric Holcomb said he is not planning to issue statewide COVID-19 restrictions for schools but praised the growing number of Indiana school districts bringing back mask mandates.
Roughly a week into the school year, Wayne Township public schools went from mask-optional to mask-required.
“Up through last Friday, we have quarantined right at 1,100 children due to close contact tracing,” said Jeff Butts, superintendent.
Butts said none of the decisions his district has made have been easy. The goal, he added, is to keep kids in the classroom.
“It is a challenge when different communities are making different decisions and there is so much information that is out there,” Butts said. “And I know health departments are struggling, and school districts are struggling, and it’s really varied across the state.”
Rachel Burke, Indiana PTA president, said she’s not surprised the governor is not issuing statewide restrictions for schools.
“We’re happy though that he is not barring school districts from making those decisions,” Burke said.
The Indiana PTA wants to see clearer guidance for schools from the state health department and the CDC, Burke said.
“To determine when is the point where you should be looking at a mask mandate, or when is the point that you should be looking at hybrid, or when is the point that you should be looking at closing down?” Burke said.
Several organizations for educators said they support the state’s decision to allow for local choices on school mask mandates and restrictions. And they hope school administrators follow the guidance of their local health departments.
“Each school system has a unique set of both community and geographic circumstances,” said Robert Taylor, associate executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents.
“We believe that it’s important for all of our local areas to be monitoring the situation and working to make the right decision,” said Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.
The Indiana School Boards Association says it also supports school districts’ control over COVID-19 restrictions.
Regardless of local mandates, Indiana doctors have urged every student and teacher to wear a mask at school, as recommended by the CDC.