The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, October 12, 2021 1:00 am

NACS limiting meeting to online

Mask mandate expires 11:59 p.m. Thursday

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

The Northwest Allen County Schools board – which has attracted disruptive, unruly audiences in recent months – won't allow the public to attend its regular meeting in person Wednesday.

Public access to the 8 p.m. session instead will be exclusively online via YouTube, according to an agenda released Monday.

However, the public may attend a 6 p.m. hearing at Perry Hill Elementary School about proposed renovation of and improvements to district facilities.

Comments will only be heard in person and exclusively on the topic of this project, the agenda states. The agenda notes the hearing also will be livestreamed.

Superintendent Chris Himsel's report during the later, online-only meeting is expected to include a COVID-19 update as well as discussion and possible action on the district's mask mandate, which returned Sept. 1 with a 3-2 board vote.

The mask mandate, which has vocal opponents, is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. Thursday unless extended by the board.

The Allen County Department of Health urges schools to follow the guidance of state and federal public health agencies that recommend masking in classrooms, Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter said last week.

A statement issued by NACS last week suggests the administration will ask the five-member board to extend the mask mandate.

“NACS will continue to follow the guidance of state and local health care experts so we can continue providing healthy and safe learning environments for more than 8,000 students,” the district said.

NACS board meetings have attracted large audiences at Carroll High School since a group protesting mask mandates began attending in March.

The district suspended public comment late last month because of safety concerns reported by law enforcement. The pause will provide time for assessment, design and implementation of an enhanced safety plan for meetings, NACS has said.

The public comment period can last hours, with many speakers repeating themselves at each meeting and often to bemoan masks or criticize leadership.

Crowds showed up at the Sept. 27 meeting despite the ban on public comment. Most attendees couldn't watch the proceedings in person because the venue moved from the high school auditorium to a classroom with about a dozen public seats.

Parents afterward called on NACS to rethink the meeting venue because of the protesters' behavior in hallways.

Students participating in after-school activities cut through a hallway filled with parents holding “Unmask NACS Students Now” signs and chanting, “Himsel must go.” The adults also urged masked students to remove their face coverings in violation of the district's rules.

A 34-year-old woman was cited that night for misdemeanor criminal trespass after a sheriff's deputy asked her to leave a hallway an estimated 13 times.

asloboda@jg.net

To watch

What: Northwest Allen County Schools regular board meeting

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Public access will be available exclusively online. Go to www.nacs.k12.in.us for the YouTube link on the calendar.


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