The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, June 29, 2021 1:00 am

NACS eases mask rule

Optional in summer; FWCS yet to decide

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

The Northwest Allen County Schools board decided Monday to make masks optional for its second summer session.

The policy will continue into fall semester barring significant changes to current COVID-19 conditions, spokeswoman Lizette Downey said.

The board voted 4-0 in favor of the proposal, with board member Steve Bartkus absent.

While welcoming the decision, the Northwest Allen County Educators Association said in a statement that it's premature to proclaim “complete victory over the pandemic” because there are still children and adults who aren't vaccinated and are vulnerable.

Meanwhile, officials in Fort Wayne Community Schools hinted at the possibility of following similar protocols once the governor's school mask mandate expires this week.

Before the FWCS board meeting began Monday night, member Steve Corona asked whether it was the last with masks.

“Could be,” Superintendent Mark Daniel said.

The topic didn't arise during the half-hour FWCS meeting, but afterward district spokeswoman Krista Stockman said administrators are expected to discuss today which COVID-19 protocols will be followed beginning Thursday. That's the first day without a statewide school mask mandate.

Local school boards instead will determine what measures or restrictions are needed inside their buildings regarding the spread of COVID-19.

Unlike NACS, FWCS won't bring its plans to the board for a formal vote. The board last year delegated the decision-making authority to the superintendent, Stockman said.

Decisions need to be made soon because people – including district employees, vendors and families – visit FWCS buildings during the summer, Stockman said. And the second summer school session begins July 6, the same date as NACS.

Plans for the 2021-22 year might not be finalized until later, Stockman said.

FWCS has dodged the crowds other Allen County districts, especially NACS, have faced at board meetings in recent months over the mask mandate. People have spoken both for and against the COVID-19 prevention strategy.

NACS continued to attract an audience Monday, Downey said.

“Overall, people were overwhelmingly happy that (the mask mandate) was lifted officially,” she said.

The NACS teachers union noted children younger than 12 aren't yet eligible for vaccination, and masks are intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to others rather than protecting the mask-wearer.

If public health officials agencies, such as the state and Allen County health departments, recommend more stringent enforcement of mask policies due to new, unforeseen data, the teachers union would expect the district to comply, the association said.

“We hope that the parents and students in NACS will consider the Indiana Department of Health's recommendations to help keep the transmission of COVID-19 as minimal as possible so that non-vaccinated students have minimal disruptions to their in-person classroom experience,” the union said.

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