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Westfield, Brownsburg schools reinstating mask policy

Students, staff and guests will be required to wear a face mask inside school buildings starting Aug. 18.

Students in Westfield Washington and Brownsburg schools will again be required to wear a mask indoors.

The districts announced the decision Monday evening. All students, staff and guests will be required to wear a mask while inside a school facility.

"This policy update will allow us to keep more students in a safe, in-person learning environment and increase the chances of Westfield Washington Schools making it through the year without any major learning disruptions," Westfield Washington Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul A. Kaiser wrote.

Westfield Washington's mandate was initially set to go into effect Wednesday, but Tuesday night, Kaiser delayed the start until Monday, Aug. 23.

Brownsburg Schools Superintendent Jim Snapp said the district decided to reimplement the mask policy "based on the safety of our students and the high number of them missing class due to quarantine." Brownsburg's mandate began again Wednesday.

Snapp said the district has already passed the highest weekly numbers of positive COVID-19 cases and students quarantined from last school year. 

"We understand this is a change in our current safety protocols; however, with all students wearing masks, the quarantine radius is reduced from six feet to three feet. This will result in a significant reduction in the number of students quarantined," Snapp wrote.

Meanwhile, the Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation voted Monday to move to a tiered approach to mask mandates in their district.

Under the tier system, individual schools will be monitored for absences for any illness and/or confirmed positive COVID-19 cases. When a school is placed in the orange tier, face masks will be required. 

Starting Wednesday, Aug. 18, Mt. Vernon Middle School will be moved to the orange tier and masks will be required for at least five days. 

The school board noted that last year, the district had over 300 cases, but contact tracing showed no evidence that one student infected the others. Already this year, three students appear to have caught it from other students. 

RELATED: Several central Indiana school districts to begin mask mandates Monday

On Monday, Aug. 16, several school districts, including Carmel Clay, Hamilton Southeastern and Noblesville schools in Hamilton County, as well as Pike and Lawrence Township schools in Marion County, began enforcing a mask policy in their school buildings amid a rise in COVID-19 numbers in Indiana.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said he wouldn't issue a statewide mask mandate, instead leaving the decision to local governments, businesses and school corporations. But he said Monday he was supportive of schools that decide to reimplement mask requirements.

Holcomb said schools adopting mask mandates "are making a wise decision when the facts are warranted." And, for many schools, rising virus cases and a staggering amount of kids being forced to quarantine did warrant a return to a mask mandate.  

RELATED: Gov. Holcomb backs schools on face mask mandates

In Henry County, the Shenandoah School Corporation has returned to remote learning on Monday. Henry County Health Director Angela Cox said nearly 20 percent of the students district-wide had tested positive for COVID-19 or were in quarantine, along with several staff members.