The Zionsville Community Schools Board of Trustees unanimously voted to recommend masks for unvaccinated students in the 2021-22 academic year but lifted the district’s mask mandate in classrooms.
ZCS Supt. Scott Robison strongly recommended individuals who are not fully vaccinated wear masks in school, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued July 9 that recommends all unvaccinated people 2 and older wear masks in schools. Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are not approved for children younger than 12 years old.
Parents packed the July 13 school board meeting, displaying signs calling for an end to the mask mandate. They said continuing the mandate was unnecessary, arguing that students have been negatively impacted by face coverings. Accounts of children having difficulty breathing, complaining of headaches and not seeing their friends’ faces were shared during the meeting. During the board’s June and July meetings, parents also cited examples of children having difficulties learning English as a second language and reading lips because of face coverings.
Numerous parents also said they do not plan to vaccinate their children, saying the risks outweigh the benefits and that children are statistically less likely to die or become seriously ill because of the disease.
Ruby Roberti, a parent of four ZCS students, told the board she has no plans to vaccinate her children.
“Let’s look at the potential discrimination and segregation of our unvaccinated children if we continue to make them wear masks,” Roberti told the board ahead of its vote. “We are sending a menacing message to these kids that, ‘We want your classmates to know you are dangerous and disobedient. Your life will be more difficult, and you will be punished if you are not vaccinated. If you want to end this harassment, you must submit to a risky medical intervention.’”
ZCS officials also released the school districts plans for the next school year regarding COVID-19 protocols:
- All plans for the start of the school on August 3, 2021 are subject to change based on public health data, guidance, state and/or county directive and the responsibility of the ZCS Board of Trustees to govern the local public school program.
- Disease spread mitigation protocols of hand-washing, hand-sanitizing, enhanced HVAC recirculation, closed water fountains (with open water bottle filling stations) will continue until further notice.
- All forms of school transportation require mask wearing until further notice. (This is a federal regulation.)
- Mask wearing is strongly recommended indoors for individuals not fully vaccinated until further notice, as per CDC recommendation.
- ZCS will not require vaccination for any staff or student until further notice.
- ZCS may require proof of vaccination status for parent volunteers and others who may wish to enter the school environment until further notice.
- The superintendent and/or designee(s) are to continue reporting COVID-19 positive cases and close contacts made known to him/them regarding the school and community setting.
- Unless otherwise communicated in the case of COVID-19 community spread, there will be no event restrictions or permissions required from local health authorities until further notice.
- The superintendent and/or designee(s) are hereby authorized to make COVID-19 protocol adjustments in safety practices of any kind to include, but not limited to, school scheduling, closure, masking and social distancing, limits upon event size and/or participation specifics until further notice.
- In the event of a school closure by health authorities or unilaterally by the board of trustees, this mask decision/practice will be reviewed as a function of reassessing safe school re-entry thereafter and may be implemented by the superintendent or his designee(s) as needed until the board’s next meeting to consider formal review/revision of the practice.
- Vaccination status of students and adults will not be known to ZCS unless a COVID-19 positive case and close contact situation calls vaccination status into question (regarding quarantine or isolation need or duration).
- Parents should keep ill children at home and report COVID-19 symptoms and positive test results to the child’s school.
Because of the emergence of new variants, Robison said COVID-19 will be a matter the school district contends with indefinitely. Meanwhile, he said the school board and district leadership team will continue to exercise their responsibilities to implement the school program in accordance with public health and government guidance and directives.