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Pioneer Schools to require masks beginning Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021

Last Updated on October 5, 2021 by Pioneer Regional School Corporation

The letter below was sent to Pioneer parents and guardians today and shared on the schools’ Facebook pages. The full text can be found below the image.

This is the text of the letter above:

TO: Pioneer Parents and Guardians
FROM: Chuck Grable
DATE: Sept. 3, 2021
RE: Return to In-Person Classes and Quarantines

Pioneer students and staff have been hit extremely hard this year with both positive cases of COVID-19 and quarantines. During the entire 2020-2021 school year, we had a total of 24 positive cases at the elementary and 36 positive cases at the Jr./Sr. High. So far this year, after just 17 days of school, we’ve had 18 positive cases at the elementary and 20 at the Jr./Sr. High. On top of that, we have had 125 students on quarantine at the elementary and 129 students out at the Jr./Sr. High. The Delta Variant is proving to be more contagious and the spread is currently very high.

On Sept. 1, Governor Holcomb signed a new executive order directed at K-12 corporations that went into effect on Sept. 2. The order requires school districts to follow the state statutes that mandate that schools report positive cases, complete contact tracing and adhere to the quarantine guidelines established by the CDC and Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). It also states that School Boards may implement restrictions and measures that are more restrictive than the guidelines, but Board may not implement anything that is less restrictive than the CDC and ISDH guidelines.

This impacts our current plan to reduce quarantines. Our plan was less restrictive than the CDC and ISDH guidelines. The current revised CDC and ISDH guidelines that schools must follow eliminate the requirement of a close contact to quarantine IF both the person testing positive AND the close contacts are properly wearing masks at the time of exposure. In other words, if everyone is wearing a mask properly, a student does not have to quarantine for being a close contact. Due to this executive order, to keep our students and staff safe, and to cut down on the number of quarantines due to close contacts, Pioneer will be implementing a temporary mask mandate for all students and staff beginning Tuesday, Sept. 7. We will return to in-person classes on Sept. 7 with the mask mandate in place. Masks will be required for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff. All visitors to the buildings during school hours will also be required to wear a mask. Like last year, the students and staff must properly wear an appropriate mask. Masks should completely cover the nose and mouth, have at least two layers of breathable fabric (should block out light when held up to a bright light source) and be washed regularly. Masks made of mesh, containing a vent or exhalation valve or a single layer of fabric will not be allowed.

This mandate should greatly reduce the number of quarantines due to close contacts. However it will not eliminate all quarantines. It will not impact times when students may not be wearing a mask (lunch, PE, etc.) As with last year, there may be times during the day when our younger students may remove the masks while in the classroom or outside (as long as they are able to social distance.)

Masks will be recommended for adult spectators at athletic and ECA events but not required. However they will be required for Pioneer students attending the events whenever they are sitting together or going to the concession stands or restrooms since our primary goal is to keep students in school. We know from the data that students learn best while in school vs. virtual. Based on the factors shared in this letter, this is our best hope of keeping our students at school.

Although this mandate is temporary, we do not yet have an end date established. The School Board will review the mandate at each monthly School Board meeting based on the impact on quarantines, and the level of school and community spread. Again, based on the Governor’s executive order, this is our only option to greatly reduce the number of student quarantines and to keep our students in school. We thank you for your understanding in this matter as we work to keep everyone safe and in school.