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INDIANA — As school districts begin to see increased cases of coronavirus among the student population, at least five additional school districts are requiring everyone to wear masks, regardless of vaccine status.

Noblesville Schools released a COVID-19 update Friday afternoon saying COVID rates are putting in-person learning, athletics, performing arts, and special events and activities at risk. 

District administrators say they are seeing COVID rates that are already at the peak of what they experienced last winter. Absentee rates are among the highest they have ever seen.

The administrators say the many students are coming to school with symptoms of illness, despite its COVID protocol. They say anyone with symptoms should stay home.

Hamilton Southeastern schools administrators also say they have seen an increase of COVID cases in the student population. Since classes begin, they have tracked 80 positive cases in the student population with more than 500 close contacts.

In response, administrators at both districts say masks will be required for all students, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. Carmel Clay Schools and MSD Lawrence Township also say all students, staff, and visitors will be required to wear a mask beginning August 16.

On Friday, MSD of Pike Township announced it will also mandate mask wearing for all students, staff and guests within the district’s schools and office buildings, regardless of vaccination status.

“We appreciate your understanding and support as we work to prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff, and community and do everything possible to avoid interruptions to in-person instruction,” the district wrote.

In addition, Hamilton Southeastern Schools administrators say they are reducing the length of quarantine for unvaccinated students/staff if asymptomatic. It will now be:

  • 10 day, with return to school on day 11 OR
  • 7 day, with return to school on day 8 if negative PCR test on day 5, 6, or 7

Noblesville Schools administrators say approved masks include cloth, neck gaiter, disposal or medical grade. Bandanas are not approved for use as a mask and face shields will only be used by select staff and students in specific, approved situations.

They strongly encourage staff, students, and families who are eligible to receive a COVID vaccination. To support this, they are hosting an immunization clinic at the Noblesville Schools Community Center located at 1775 Field Drive on August 25 from 3-7 p.m. They will offer the Pfizer COVID vaccine for students 12 and older along with adults.

To participate in the immunization clinic, please sign up here and complete a consent form either online with code IN65942 or by downloading, signing and bringing a hard copy from the links below. Participants are asked to bring their health insurance card, if they have one. They will still provide vaccinations for uninsured students.

Is this change on the horizon for more districts?

The Avon Community School Corp could be among some of the next to announce a mask mandate for its elementary and intermediate schools, depending on the results of a board meeting Wednesday in the district.

In a letter sent to families Sunday, obtained by FOX59, Superintendent Dr. Scott Wyndham said he met with the Hendricks County Health Department and superintendents of other school corporations in the county and said he was notifying parents of changes he is recommending to existing COVID-19 protocols and the timeline for implementation.

According to Wyndham, based on current data and public health recommendations, he is recommending masks be required in all elementary and intermediate schools for students and adults. Other recommendations include limited access of guests and volunteers in the school while students are present, desks and tables spaced out as much as possible and by requiring masks, that quarantine radius would be reduced from 6 to 3 feet in classroom settings.

“The number of positive cases in elementary schools last week exceeds our highest numbers of any week last school year. Last week alone, there were 25 positive elementary cases. The highest number last year was 17 in a single week,” the letter read.

Masks continue to be strongly recommended in preschool, middle and high schools, but Wyndham said he is not recommending a mandate at those at this time.

Wyndham said over the first two and a half weeks of school, 84 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and almost 800 students, or 8% of all Avon students, have quarantined.

His letter also read, “In the first 12 days of the 2021-22 school year, students have lost 4,030 days of instruction to quarantines. This cannot continue!”

Wyndham said the school board will meet in an Executive Session to weigh immediate changes to quarantine protocols and he has asked the School Board to evaluate the recommendations put forth at a meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 18 at 7 p.m., which will be held in the auditorium at Avon Middle School South.

The meeting will be open to the public, however, public comment will not take place.

Wyndham wrote, “The Board’s decision will be based upon a review of data from our schools and collaboration with the health department, not on the number of people who speak for or against masks at this meeting.”