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INDIANAPOLIS — As Indiana’s COVID-19 numbers continue their decline, several school districts are doing away with mask mandates.

Carmel Clay Schools announced on Monday that the district would be going mask optional beginning Feb. 22. Westfield Washington schools went mask-optional on Monday as did three schools in the Noblesville Schools district. All Noblesville schools will go mask optional starting Feb. 22.

Despite these moves, experts are warning it may be premature. “I would really encourage people to keep it for that contact tracing purpose,” Shandy Dearth at the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health said.

The main reason Dearth believes schools should keep mask requirements is because it keep more kids in school. State guidelines don’t require students or staff to quarantine because of a close contact if they are wearing masks.

“I know having those masks in place has really helped keep students in the classroom they haven’t had to quarantine as many students that sort of issue has not been such a problem,” Dearth said. It’s the main reason Edinburgh Community Schools extended its requirement into early March.

“We just feel like the masks keep our staff here at work and our kids in the classroom and we just feel like that’s where people belong,” Superintendent Ron Ross said. Ross said quarantines have been a “logistical nightmare” to navigate as the district is already short-staffed.

“We’re just trying to avoid having healthy students, healthy staff not be able to come to school, not be able to be at work,” Ross said.

We attempted to speak with the districts who are rolling back their mandates. They all declined our interview requests.

“We are still only at 18 percent of kids 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated,” Dearth said. “I would say let’s reassess it after the spring breaks or over to see if we should go ahead and remove masks.” Edinburgh Community Schools has plans to do just that, and Ross said it will likely go back to mask-optional then.

“From what I’ve seen the kids are pretty good about using the mask so let’s let the kids kind of lead us on this one and keep using masks,” Dearth said.