At Salem’s regular board meeting on Tuesday night, the Board of School Trustees voted 6-0 to lift the school’s mask mandate that has been in place since last fall.
Board President Rodney Brough said masks will “go away” and administrators and staff at all three Salem schools would work together in the next few days to develop a singular plan to enact by Tuesday, Feb. 22.
“Do we like masks?” Brough asked. “No. Ultimately, the biggest input we got from parents is “We want the kids in school. We all want to be in school.”
Although, the board recognized that there would be some students and even staff that would continue to wear masks.
And students will still be expected and required to wear masks on the school bus ride to and from school.
“It would be reckless for us not to adhere to CDC guidelines,” said Brough. “We’ve talked to a couple of schools who have some rules that allow them to deviate from those guidelines…Where their nurses make decisions based on symptoms.”
Brough suggested to lift the mask rule and allow the building administrators and teachers to decide how they were going to accomplish the goal.
Board member Mark Day added,” I do think things are trending down. We’ve cycled through and seen down trends before. We want to try and make as many people happy as possible. When we make decisions, we’re trying to make them for the best of everybody and we need people to get on board. You have to go with the evidence and understand the direction we’re going.”
Board Vice-President Becky White wanted to make sure if masks are not required and the number of students rise that need to be quarantined, that a back-up plan was in place.
Brough noted that if numbers go up, then the board will meet again to review the decision.
“We’ll have to respect the decisions our nurses make,” said Brough. “It’s going to take everyone’s support. I’m not a doctor, but for the last two years, I’ve been forced to make those decisions.”
By Tuesday, Feb. 22, the school will be releasing guidelines for students and staff to follow.
Board member Allison Ezzell made the motion to remove the mask mandate and White seconded the motion. The motion passed 6-0.
The schools will continue to recognize the CDC recommendation for quarantine and will still perform contact tracing.
The guidance says students who test positive for COVID can return to the classroom on Day 6 after staying home for five days, as long as they’re asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving.
However, those students must wear a mask for Days 6 to 10, regardless of their school’s mask policy.
Students who have tested positive and can’t or choose not to wear a mask must still isolate at home for the full 10 days.
Meanwhile, students who have been exposed to COVID in school but remain asymptomatic can still attend school on campus, provided they wear a mask.
Even in schools without a mask requirement, students must mask for 10 days, and a test on Day 5 is encouraged, if possible.
If a student is exposed to COVID at home or otherwise outside of school, their steps depend on their vaccination status.
Fully vaccinated students — defined as those who have received both doses plus a booster, if eligible — can remain in school if they’re asymptomatic and wear a mask for at least 10 days if their school doesn’t require masks full time.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students who are asymptomatic should stay home for five days, test on Day 5 if possible, and return to the classroom with a mask for Days 6 through 10.
Indiana will require all students who have been exposed to get a test if symptoms develop and to stay home.
If the test is positive, they should follow isolation guidance, and if negative, they can return to school when symptoms have resolved.