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Wearing masks back in school: State releases guidance on wearing masks in school, protocol for cases

As schools discuss online versus in-person classes, mask use becomes key discussion
Posted at 5:42 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 14:15:55-04

INDIANAPOLIS – The state of Indiana is largely requiring all students over grade 3 to wear masks at school for the 2020 year.

Here's what state officials said Wednesday afternoon about the guidance for schools and parents.

Masks required

Students in grades 3-12 are required to wear masks in school settings, with the following exceptions:

  • If a classroom can be configured so students and teachers are at least 3 feet apart
  • During outdoor recess, where social distancing is enforced
  • When deemed necessary by a school official for instruction purposes
  • If the student has an IEP or 504 learning plan

Even though the mandate is for students above third grade, Family and Social Services Secretary Dr. Jennifer Sullivan recommended all students wear a mask at school.

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Sullivan said all students, regardless of age, should wear masks on a school bus.

Faculty and staff are required to wear masks at all times when interacting with colleagues or students, unless there is 6 feet between the instruction area and the students.

Positive cases

If positive cases are discovered, here’s the plan released by the state. First, students may be grouped in pods that move through the day together. The pods should be isolated from other groups of children, so entire classrooms don’t have to be shut down.

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The state will identify who spent more than 15 minutes within 6 feet of the person for the 48 hours before their symptoms showed up, or before a positive test. Any close contacts will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. If grouping students wasn’t possible due to classroom limitations, the entire class may need to quarantine.

If more than one student tests positive, the classroom should quarantine for 14 days. No threshold has been set for closing a school due to positive cases.

“This is what we have successfully done in the child care setting,” Sullivan said.

She also said school and job protections are in place for the contact tracing program, and the state is working to strengthen them.

“We want to make sure we have a package in place to support those families, and honestly, the work we do now to make sure we have as few cases as possible, we’d like that to be zero so everyone can stay in school continuously,” Sullivan said.