NEW WHITELAND, Ind. — With COVID-19 cases continuing to drop, many students can now drop their masks while at school in Johnson County.
Three large districts are still encouraging students and staff to wear masks, but the mandate is no more.
One classroom at Break-O-Day Elementary School in New Whiteland was split about 50/50. Some students wore masks, others did not. The Clark-Pleasant Community Schools administration is still highly recommending everyone wear masks inside school buildings, but it's not a requirement.
"I think it's fair to say we'd all like to be over this pandemic and be out of masks, back to whatever normal is,” said Clark-Pleasant Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Spray. “So, we're just trying to do the best we can in these incremental steps to get there."
Students in Clark-Pleasant Community Schools just returned Monday from a two-week fall break.
Spray said student coronavirus cases have steadily declined over the past four weeks to about 10 cases in a district of 7,000 students.
Masks are now optional after Johnson County dropped to a yellow advisory level on the Indiana State Department of Health's map that measures the spread of coronavirus in each of the state's counties. Positive COVID-19 cases are below 2% of the student population.
"We've gotten different guidance from different departments at different times at the state level and at the county level, and we've tried to be flexible and heed that guidance that we're getting,” said Spray. “But by and large, most of our people have been very cooperative. They understand the situation that we're in, that we're trying to do the best thing that we can and primarily trying to make sure that we keep kids in school."
With consultation from the Johnson County Health Department, the school district has made a change for quarantines as well.
Close contacts of a positive COVID case, who are unvaccinated but without symptoms, can still avoid quarantine by wearing a mask for 10 days and closely monitoring for symptoms. The updated policy is available on the school district's website.
Center Grove and Greenwood Community Schools also became mask optional Monday.
Greenwood Community Schools provided the following statement:
"Greenwood Community School Corporation transitioned to strongly recommending masks for all students and staff effective Monday, October 25, 2021. This decision was made with the support of the Johnson County Health Department. Locally, cases in Johnson County have continued to drop and the county advisory level qualified for yellow status on Wednesday, October 20th. The combination of a high local vaccination rate in our district, which is over 70% of the eligible population, the county and school metrics continuing to improve, and approval of the local health department allowed our district to make the change.
GCSC parents have been outstanding at monitoring their children for symptoms of COVID-19. Support in preventing the spread by watching for symptoms and the parents' willingness to keep children home with symptoms has also factored in our decision. We could not have made this transition without their diligence.
It is our hope that we continue to see a decline in positive COVID cases within our district and county."
Almost 64% of the eligible population is vaccinated in Johnson County as a whole.
Center Grove’s updated policy says masks are strongly recommended for all students, staff, and visitors.