TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The Tippecanoe School Corp. Board voted 6-1 Monday morning to enforce a mask mandate.
The vote happened after Board President Patrick Hein called an emergency meeting amid rising student quarantines. During the meeting, he said the issue could "get out of hand quickly."
TSC, the lone holdout on mask mandates among the county's public school corporations, now requires masks inside schools and other buildings. Mask-wearing was previously optional.
School board member Julia Cummings cast the lone vote against the mandate while parents on both sides of the debate turned out.
"We've been pushing for a mask policy right from the start," says TSC parent Brent Jesiek. "I know there's a lot of division on this issue but I think masking the kids up and keeping them safe is really what we're happy to see here."
"I'm just about letting everyone do what they feel is best for their family," says TSC parent Sarah Johnson.
"I'm not really surprised, I'm disappointed," Johnson says of the board members who voted for the mask mandate, "especially with the ones that seemed to hold the views of freedom and personal choice."
The main topic of discussion: 388 students quarantined in the first eight school days. Board member Jacob Burton noted it's the same amount of instructional time lost as 17 students missing a full school year.
Johnson's son, a student at Harrison High School, is one of those quarantined students. So would a mask have kept him in school?
"Potentially, but I don't know how many times my kids were quarantined last year with masks," she says.
Board members noted more than 6,000 students were quarantined last school year. They also discussed CDC and state guidance on more stringent contact tracing for unmasked students.
Unmasked students are considered a close contact if they are within six feet of a positive case, rather than three feet for masked students.
One positive case this year at TSC, for example, reportedly sent 40 students home.
"I'm a little troubled by some of the comments about a lack of evidence around the efficacy of masking because I think there's a lot of really good evidence," Jesiek says.
Johnson is considering home schooling her high schoolers or transferring them to a different school. She says friends, family members and fellow parents are doing the same.
"I think that they're going to see a lot of kids being removed," she says.
This year's mask mandate takes effect Wednesday. As News 18 previously reported, the board voted down a similar measure earlier this month.
"It's just really critical not only to keep our kids safe but really to keep the whole community safe," Jesiek says.