The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, July 20, 2021 1:00 am

EACS board to vote on return plans

Meeting on mask policy tonight

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Families curious about East Allen County Schools' plans for the upcoming academic year don't have to wait much longer.

The board is expected to hear and vote on a presentation tonight about the district's return-to-school plan at its 6:30 p.m. meeting in the Administration Building in New Haven.

The meeting packet posted Monday didn't include details about the proposed plan, but the seven-member board in May passed a resolution indicating a desire for a mask-optional policy for the upcoming academic year, if coronavirus infection rates remain relatively low.

The plan – which is fluid and could change in the upcoming months – will be posted on the district website once approved, the packet said.

Like other districts last academic year, EACS implemented various strategies, including social distancing, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It also followed the governor's statewide school mask mandate.

By spring, the requirement had become a topic of debate during the public comment period at area school board meetings, including at EACS.

EACS – a district of about 10,000 students – had 382 positive COVID-19 cases requiring contact tracing at school last academic year, according to its annual health services report. Two schools had more than 50 cases: New Haven Junior-Senior High School had 77, and Leo Junior-Senior High School had 65.

Paulette Nellems was the only board member who opposed the spring resolution, which indicated a desire for a mask-optional 2021-22. Mask-wearing decreases infections, which were disproportionately affecting the community she was elected to serve – an area mostly populated by people of color, she said.

The three other Allen County school districts have loosened their mask rules since the statewide school mask mandate expired June 30.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 9 released a revised guidance on mask-wearing in schools. The agency said vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear masks inside school buildings. But only those 12 and older can get the vaccine.

The Southwest Allen County Schools board July 13 approved a plan calling for in-person classes where masks will be optional for all students and staff.

Northwest Allen County Schools in June adopted a mask-optional policy but noted a mandate could be reinstated depending on levels of community spread or cases at school.

Fort Wayne Community Schools was more specific in its guidelines released in late June. The district will recommend masks for unvaccinated employees and unvaccinated middle and high school students while inside any district building – a policy that relies on the honor system. At the elementary schools, it will encourage indoor mask use for all students.

The policy was in place as of Monday, spokeswoman Krista Stockman confirmed.

Districts are requiring masks on school buses to comply with federal order.

Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required