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South Harrison removes mask mandate

Parents to have discretion over their own children
South Harrison removes mask mandate South Harrison removes mask mandate
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

The South Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees voted unanimously to remove the mask mandate at each of its schools at a special meeting last Tuesday evening.

The new policy modifications, which became effective Oct. 20, now “strongly recommends” masks for students, staff and guests while in the school buildings; however, it is no longer required. The modification also states that should the data dictate a shift in case numbers, this policy can revert back to a mask mandate by request of the superintendent in individual classrooms, buildings or the corporation as a whole.

This new policy does not include South Harrison transportation, which continues to be under a federal mask mandate.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge told the board that this decision came after consistently evaluating the number of cases and meeting numerous times with corporation administration.

“I think COVID, to some extent, is here to stay,” he said. “So, we need to be looking at how we can move forward to finding that normality again. By removing the mandate, it now falls on the parent to decide if they want their student to wear a mask or not.”

This, however, does go against the recommendations and executive orders of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, as he recommends mask mandates. He incentivized schools to continue with the mandates by not requiring a quarantine period for close contacts of positive cases if a student was wearing a mask at the time.

Based on South Harrison’s shift from a mandate to being strongly recommended, students and staff who are unmasked and within three feet of a positive case for 15 minutes will be quarantined. Students and staff who are vaccinated or masked will not need to quarantine as long as they remain asymptomatic.

Eastridge noted that the corporation will continue to recommend social distancing and that all cleaning and safety measures will stay in place.

Also at the meeting, the board also took time to review numerous complaints made by parents at a previous board meeting. Some of the allegations and concerns were in regard to possible bullying, biased media or political exposure and punishments pertaining to masks.

Each line item was discussed after being investigated by Diane Owen and Allison Schalk, directors of curriculum, instruction and assessment for elementary and secondary, respectively.

Most issues had previously been handled in past years or were no longer issues currently.

One issue parents had previously expressed concerns about were students watching CNN10, a daily 10-minute news segment some students watch in classrooms. Schalk explained that she had watched numerous episodes and even allowed the board to pick an episode at random to watch, and no one found any sort of bias in the journalism on the show.

In other business, the board unanimously approved the 2022 budgets for education, operations and debt service funds; the capital projects plan; and the resolution of approval for the bus replacement plan.

Also, the board approved an appreciation stipend for staff, which totals a little more than $500,000 to be split among employees. A full report detailing compensation amounts by staff members will be submitted for consideration prior to distribution of the stipend.

Eastridge noted that employees could expect to see this money sometime around Thanksgiving.

The board’s next regular meeting will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the corporate office in Corydon.