September 3, 2021
Dear Valparaiso Schools Community,
In an effort to maintain high quality in-person instruction in a safe and healthy environment for our students while minimizing the disruption caused by mandatory quarantine rules, Valparaiso Community Schools will require masks for all students, staff, and visitors during the school day regardless of vaccination status in all of the schoolhouses effective Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
This change is the result of rising cases of COVID in Porter County and the subsequent increase of positive cases among our students and staff which has resulted in over 300 quarantined healthy individuals (missing over 2000 days of collective instruction) due to schoolhouse contact tracing since August 11. Recently, Porter County Health Officer Dr. Maria Stamp issued her updated direction that school districts require masks in all Porter County schoolhouses regardless of vaccination status. Furthermore, as directed by Governor Holcomb’s September 1st Executive Order 21-24, the Indiana Department of Health has updated their statutory “control measures” for communicable diseases; contained therein is the new provision that when masks are worn by all people in the classroom setting, close contacts are exempt from quarantine so long as they are asymptomatic.
What does this mean for our school community?
- Masks will be required regardless of vaccination status in all VCS schoolhouses and on buses. By wearing masks, VCS expects to reduce quarantines significantly which will increase the likelihood of maintaining full time in-person learning as well as continued opportunities for co- and extra-curricular activities during the pandemic.
- A benefit of the updated IDOH control measures in a masked classroom is that instructional and social activities may return to pre-COVID conditions--no longer is a 3-foot or 6-foot radius required between students. Students will now be able to engage in more partner work, turn-and-talks, small group instruction, labs, and other engaging activities with their peers without risk of being quarantined.
- Staff will provide students opportunities, as allowed by state health protocols, to remove masks at appropriate times when eating, engaged in physical activity, and when 6-feet of physical distance is possible or while outdoors.
- Household quarantines as well as those close contacts from non-classroom settings, extracurricular activities and athletics may still be subject to quarantine. **Vaccinated (asymptomatic) students and staff remain exempt from contact-traced quarantines in non-classroom settings.
- VCS will continue to encourage physical distancing in non-classroom settings and frequent hand washing/sanitizing in addition to our other layered mitigation protocols.
These measures will remain in place while the community and school data continue to be monitored with the consultation and direction of the Porter County Health Department. Dr. Stamp has indicated that as the community data improves, her direction will change accordingly.
Thank you for your continued support. Have a safe and restful holiday weekend.
Partners in Education,
Jim McCall, PhD