The Journal Gazette
Saturday, August 28, 2021 1:00 am

Closed doors muddle work on schools' virus policy

EDITORIAL BOARD | The Journal Gazette

With coronavirus cases surging, schools are considering ways to keep children, staff and faculty safe.

As of Friday, only Fort Wayne Community Schools among four Allen County districts has ordered masks be worn inside. School boards for the others – East Allen, Northwest Allen and Southwest Allen county schools – have held closed-door meetings under a section of state law allowing discussion of school safety and security plans.

East Allen will hold an executive session at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

While it's not clear whether COVID-19 protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing will be discussed, Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt is cautioning public schools against using the safety statute to justify secret meetings for pandemic preparedness. The law was written to allow officials to address “man-made hazards” such as intruders, not coronavirus, he said.

Boards have typically used that section to keep specific plans such as the location of cameras or secure doors from public view.

“COVID doesn't have eyes and ears, so COVID doesn't know when you're talking about it,” Britt said this week, arguing those discussions should be public.

He acknowledges that some school board meetings in Indiana and across the country have grown contentious – even combative – but said transparency is good policy.

“It only creates suspicion when you do it behind closed doors,” Britt said.

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