Dozens of Zionsville Community Schools parents attended the school board’s June 14 meeting, asking the board to consider making face masks optional for the 2021-22 school year.
Face masks continue to be mandated in all schools because of an order from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb that is set to expire July 1. At the meeting, ZCS Supt. Scott Robison recommended the school board let face masks be optional for vaccinated people from July 1 to July 12 — the date of the board’s next scheduled meeting — citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance that fully vaccinated people can go without a face mask in almost all settings. He said the school board could then take the time until its July 12 meeting to review guidance, consult local health officials and consider whether mandating face masks in schools is necessary in the 2021-22 school year.
“A year ago, we were being tortured with this notion of complete uncertainty,” Robison said during the meeting. “There is a lot less uncertainty today than there was then. We know so much more than we did a year ago, and that is going to be comforting going into the year ahead. But it is clear, we need to continue to monitor daily so that we are aware of what is happening in this realm moving forward.”
The board did not take any action on face masks at the June 14 meeting and is expected to announce plans for the next school year at its July 12 meeting, which could be subject to change based on public health officials’ guidance going forward.
But parents who attended the meeting felt the board needed to hear their opinions before making any official action on the matter.
Brittany Shaver, a parent of four ZCS students, said the parents’ primary focus that night “was making sure they knew our concerns before they made any decisions because I think often times they don’t ask our opinions.”
Shaver and several other parents expressed concerns for the lasting effects mandatory face masks were having on their children.
“We are no longer in crisis-mode, and based on the current facts, there is no justification or benefit of children being enforced to wear a mask,” Shaver said.
Shaver said her third-grade daughter is mildly hard of hearing and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic had adapted by reading lips. By Shaver’s account, her daughter had always excelled in reading, but, according to her testing scores, her reading level was stagnant last school year. Shaver also said her daughter has mild speech issues that have noticeably regressed in the same time.
Other parents told stories of their children suffering constant headaches, difficulty focusing and other concerns surrounding mask wearing. They say that because children are less likely to be hospitalized because of the disease or die from it, masks should be optional next year. In addition, they say that because residents age 12 and older in Zionsville’s zip code, 46077, are mostly vaccinated — the Indiana State Dept. of Health reports 87.2 of residents 12 and older in the zip code are fully vaccinated, as of June 15 — the risk of community spread is low.