People vaccinated against COVID-19 won't be required to wear face masks in Fort Wayne Community Schools buildings beginning Thursday, the district announced Tuesday.
Gov. Eric Holcomb's executive order mandating face masks on school grounds ends today.
Unvaccinated employees and unvaccinated middle and high school students will be expected to wear masks while inside any district building – a policy that relies on the honor system, FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.
“The only time we would need to check is in the case of contact tracing because those who are vaccinated do not have to quarantine,” she said.
Visitors, including parents, must show proof before going without a mask. Stockman said it's not a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act violation.
“If people do not want to show proof of vaccination, that's fine,” Stockman said. “They will be required to wear a face mask then.”
FWCS will not require masks outside except by high-risk individuals.
Children younger than 12 aren't yet eligible for vaccination. FWCS will encourage indoor mask use at elementary schools for all students in fifth grade and younger. That decision was influenced by the low number of cases, Stockman said.
The daily number of new cases in Allen County has ranged from four to 27 this month, according to local health officials. The total number of cases increased from 41,588 on June 1 to 41,944 on Tuesday – a gain of 356.
Earlier in the pandemic, it was common to have hundreds of new cases each day. The highest count was 613 new diagnoses on Nov. 14.
The relaxed FWCS mask guidelines are expected to apply for the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year. Additional protocols, including social distancing and contact tracing, will be established before the new year, Stockman said.
“Of course, all of this is dependent on things remaining kind of how they are now,” she said. “All of this is subject to change.”
FWCS follows Northwest Allen County Schools in relaxing mask guidelines.
The NACS board decided Monday to make masks optional for its second summer session, and the district plans to maintain that policy into fall barring significant changes to current COVID-19 conditions.
“As we have done throughout the school year, adjustments and adaptations will continue being made as guidance and orders from the governor, CDC, IDOH, ACDH and others are updated,” NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel said in a statement, referring to the federal, state and local public health agencies.
Mask requirements may be reinstated at NACS if community spread of COVID-19 reaches levels as determined by the Allen County Department of Health or if cases are confirmed in a school or classroom. In that event, mask breaks will be incorporated, and outdoor breaks will be encouraged, weather permitting, according to details released Tuesday.
NACS' updated guidance noted other practices – including social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, and maintaining seating charts for contact tracing – will continue.
Both districts will require masks on school buses. Stockman said the policy follows an order from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.