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Evansville Catholic Diocese school officials discuss mask requirement

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 9:29 AM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - After a review of rising COVID-19 cased numbers, Evansville Catholic Diocese school officials changed course on their mask policy.

The previous policy listed masks as optional.

Superintendent Dr. Daryl Hagan made a brief statement and answered questions about the new plan Monday.

The Diocese’s announcement on Friday morning said masks are only required in common areas.

Dr. Hagan said in classrooms, masks are recommended. He said some individual schools are requiring masks in classrooms if they are not able to space out the desks.

Some parents wondered what took school officials so long to update the masking policy.

“Whenever I seen it this morning, I kind of wondered why they didn’t just make that decision prior to school starting, instead of waiting a couple days into the school year,” Brittany Woods, a parent to two elementary school students said.

Hagan said on Monday, “I think the key was the hospitalizations. We’re following all the metrics but as I’m sure you know the hospitals are really filling up, especially the ICU beds, with COVID.”

The 26 schools that make up the Diocese were mask-optional before Friday morning’s announcement, and have already been in session for several days.

“I definitely feel relief,” Sarah Nernberger, a parent of a fourth grade student said. “Although it’s scary that the schools have only been open for the one week they have been open, and we’ve already had to change it back to what probably should have been done at the start.”

The new rules only require masks inside, so students don’t have to wear one if they’re at recess or playing sports.

Even though masks were optional in the first week of school, a few still wore them.

“I encouraged my child to wear it,” Nernberger said. “And she came home that night and said, ‘Mom, I took off my mask because there was no one else wearing it.’”

The decisions are made by Superintendent Hagan, Bishop Joseph Siegel and the remainder of a reopening committee that consists of several other dioceses.

Hagan said that they take parents’ wishes into consideration when deciding on COVID-19 policies.

Administrators and parents hope the new requirement will make schools safer for everyone.

“There’s children with compromised immune systems in the schools, and those kids don’t have a choice whether your kid is wearing a mask or not,” Nernberger said. “And not only are you protecting your child, but you’re protecting other people’s children.”

As of Monday, the plan is to have the mandate in effect for two weeks.

Hagan encouraged all parents to keep their children home if they exhibit any symptoms.

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