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Masks recommended, but not required for unvaccinated students returning to Carmel schools

The district says its plan is based on guidance from the CDC and both the Indiana and Hamilton County health departments.

CARMEL, Ind. — With classes starting in three weeks, the Carmel Clay School district is sharing its reopening plan, which includes some changes to its COVID protocols.

The district says its plan is based on guidance from the CDC and both the Indiana and Hamilton County health departments.

The biggest change is that "masks are highly recommended for unvaccinated students and staff, but not required," nor are masks required or even advised for those who are fully vaccinated.

Tabitha Hughes, a mother of two elementary school children said, "I think it's exciting that they're open to allowing people to choose what they're comfortable with."

Her son, Maverick, had to mask up last year. He said what he disliked most "was that you couldn't really see people's faces or expressions."

RELATED: Read Carmel Clay's COVID-19 protocols

He and his sister are still too young to get vaccinated, but when they become eligible, their mom said they will.

"As far as medical risks and everything, I don't see any reason to not get vaccinated," she said. "But right now, I'm doing what's best for my family and I think we're comfortable not wearing masks."

Carmel's loosening of its COVID protocols come amid growing concerns about the delta variant, including how quickly it spreads and the complications it causes.

RELATED: Labor shortage leaves school districts struggling to fill open positions

Chris Walker, the emergency preparedness coordinator for the Hamilton County Health Department, said they're keeping close tabs on the variant number of new cases while trying to up the vaccination rate in areas where it's low.

But for now, he said he's fine with Carmel Clay's plan.

"I think if they see it's negatively impacting the kids and families, they'll make changes necessary, so it's a good starting point and I think they've shown their flexibility to adjust as need to to adapt to the current environment," Walker said.

The district's protocols also call for social distancing when possible, spacing cafeteria tables and limiting in school visitors. Also, per federal law, all students and staffs on school buses will still be required to mask up.

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