LOUISBURG — Louisburg USD 416 returned to making masks optional after the school board allowed a mask mandate to expire Monday, Sept. 13.
Active COVID-19 cases have continued to fall after reaching a high of 58 positive student cases on Sept. 3. Last Friday, Sept. 10, student cases had dropped to 35. At the time of the school board’s meeting Monday night, the case count among students stood at 26 — 15 at Louisburg High School, seven at Louisburg Middle School, and four at Broadmoor Elementary. Rockville Elementary had no active cases.
Rockville Elementary, however, will remain in Phase 2 of the district’s Safe Return to School Plan and continue to follow established protocols because of an in-school transmission. If there are no more in-school transmissions, the school would soon revert to Phase 1.
The school board implemented mandatory masks for all students and staff at Rockville and Louisburg Middle School over the course of two special meetings. Louisburg High School soon joined the list. All three schools were under the mandate through Sept. 13 because of a rise in cases in those buildings.
The district returned to optional masks, effective Tuesday, Sept. 14, after the board did not take action at its meeting Monday night to extend the mandate. Broadmoor Elementary was not under a mask order because of the school’s low case count.
LHS and LMS will return to Phase 1 of the plan. Broadmoor Elementary has remained in Phase 1 throughout the school year.
A motion to extend the mask mandate until January failed on a 5-1 vote, with board member John Payton casting the “yes” vote.
The school board voted 6-0 to establish a 10-day isolation period for students and staff who test positive for COVID-19. Quarantines will be for 10 days following the initial diagnosis or unless released sooner by health department. After that time period, individuals who tested positive can return to school.
Superintendent Brian Biermann said establishing that 10-day protocol should help parents plan for the isolation period because it communicates worse-case scenario for positive cases.
Special board meetings were called Aug. 30 and Sept. 2 because the district’s Safe Return to School Plan requires a meeting when 2.5 percent or more of the building’s student population tests positive for COVID-19.
The board voted 5-1 Monday night to raise the threshold from 2.5 percent to 5 percent. Payton cast the “no” vote.
Biermann said the highest percentage recorded at a school this year was approximately 3.7 percent at the high school.
When asked about modified quarantines, Biermann said he didn’t have the exact number in front of him but said modified quarantines have worked.
“The modified quarantines that you guys have put in place as policy have kept asymptomatic staff and students in school by the hundreds already this school year,” Biermann said.
He noted the Miami County Health Department has endorsed the district’s modified quarantine plan, which gives students and staff who were quarantined because of close contact to a positive case five options to return to school, provided they are asymptomatic.
Payton said the move to mandatory masks was working and cases have come down.
“I think the only thing we can say has definitely worked is we’ve been wearing masks and it has slowed it down. The numbers have decreased,” Payton said.
Board member Lanny Smith wasn’t convinced masks were the reason cases have dropped.
“Broadmoor did not wear a mask yet this year, and they only have four cases,” Smith said. “So that does not show me that masks work everywhere.”
Payton said it’s true Broadmoor only has four cases, but the school had zero cases a week and a half ago, he said.
“So they’ve gone up, but they didn’t have a spike like the other buildings did,” Payton said.
Several district patrons spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, both for and against masks.
One speaker asked the board to consider implementing a mask mandate until January to protect schoolchildren under the age of 12 who are not eligible for the vaccine. He said a vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 likely will come out before January.
One teacher and mom urged the board to drop the mandate. She said no one cares more about the safety of a child than their parents. She said a parent should have the right to decide what they think is in the best interest of their children.