VALPARAISO — After hundreds of students in quarantine and new state guidance, Valparaiso Community Schools is mandating masks.
All students, staff and visitors during the school day will need to wear masks in the school buildings regardless of vaccination status starting Tuesday, the district said in an update posted to its website.
The change is being made because of rising COVID-19 cases in Porter County and over 300 “healthy” students and staff being placed in quarantine since Aug. 11, the update said. Collectively, those in quarantine have missed over 2,000 days of instruction, it said.
Because of the executive order Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Wednesday updating the quarantine policies in school settings, VCS expects to reduce quarantines “significantly” and increase the likelihood of continued in-person learning and extracurriculars.
Porter County Health Officer Dr. Maria Stamp recently issued guidance that all schools should require masks regardless of vaccination status.
Students will be given opportunities to remove masks during the school day such as when eating, engaged in physical activity, while outside or when 6 feet of physical distance can be maintained, the update said.
The update signed Superintendent Jim McCall said a benefit of updated guidance from the Indiana Department of Health is that classrooms where everyone is wearing a mask can return to “pre-COVID conditions.” It adds that a 3-foot or 6-foot radius is no longer required between students, so they can do more partner work, small group instruction and labs.
The mask mandate will remain while the community and school data are monitored in consultation with the Porter County Health Department. The update said Stamp will change her direction accordingly as community data improves.