SOUTH BEND – Elementary students at South Bend schools will be required to wear masks when the school year begins next month under the district's new coronavirus response plan.
The plan approved Monday night by the South Bend Community School Corp. board outlines the coronavirus measures that will be in place when the school year begins for students Aug. 11.
Students in prekindergarten through fifth grade will be required to wear masks indoors, while face coverings will not be required but strongly encouraged among unvaccinated staff and middle and high school students, the South Bend Tribune reported.
Staff and middle school and high school students who are vaccinated can go mask-free, but all visitors to any district school building will be required to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.
Administrators said their decision comes in consultation with health officials and follows similar moves in large school districts, such as Indianapolis Public Schools and Wayne Township, in Indianapolis' west suburbs.
Unlike Indianapolis, which will collect voluntary proof of vaccination for those opting not to wear masks, South Bend's policy will largely be based on an honor system.
“We are asking for individuals to be honest,” said Brandon White, the district's assistant superintendent of academics.
South Bend's policy comes after the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new recommendations last week that all students older than age 2 wear masks regardless of their vaccination status.