La PORTE — With the La Porte Community School Corp. nearly a month into its face-covering mandate and COVID-19 numbers trending downward, the school administration is continuing to monitor how the virus is impacting the district.
“I think the important thing for us is to try to stay steady with our approaches and not knee-jerk react as these things go up or down,” Supt. Mark Francesconi told the La Porte Community Schools Board of Trustees on Oct. 4.
“Who knows what the future lies as far as another spike or how this trend is going. Right now, it’s on a downward trend, but a slow downward trend.”
On Sept. 15, the district went to a mask mandate requiring that face coverings be worn in all corporation buildings when social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained.
The requirement will remain in effect at any time in which the La Porte County COVID-19 Advisory level is yellow, orange or red.
The requirement is effective indoors for all buildings in the school corporation, but does not extend to extracurricular activities conducted by the corporation.
At the start of the school year, face coverings had been recommended, but not required.
“We’re very interested in following the numbers of positive cases that we’ve had since then in comparison to prior to having a mask mandate. This is going to be important data points for us to look at in the future,” Francesconi said.
The county’s advisory level is currently orange and the county’s percentage of positive tests dropped to 8.57 percent.
“We saw those numbers drop below 10 percent last week, which is certainly good and certainly would keep us out of the red if we continue that trend,” Francesconi said.
The district, he said, is monitoring the positive case data. He told the board that throughout last year and this year, they have seen some correlation between the county spread and the number of cases in the corporation’s buildings.
“This year has not quite fallen along those same lines. We had a week in the yellow spread level which was our highest ever. That was 46 positive cases in the corporation.
“Since then, we’ve been in the orange for three or four weeks, now. The numbers have been dropping steadily during the orange. That’s sort of been an anomaly for us,” Francesconi said.
For the week of Oct. 4, there were eight positive cases reported in the school district. The week prior saw 17.
Francesconi said when they look at numbers of positive cases, they are not seeing spread levels within the schools.
“In other words, we’re not seeing those students or staff that are exposed or close contacts to a positive case that was in the school, we’re not seeing those individuals turn into positive cases.
“We’ve watched that throughout last year and as well as this year – mask or no mask – is what we’ve seen. We’ll continue to monitor that as we go,” he said.
Because the school corporation has a mask policy, Francesconi said they have been able to minimize the number of students that get close contact quarantined and sent home.
“Just since implementing that ... we’ve already averted 142 students or staff from sending them home because we had a mask policy. We’ll continue to monitor those numbers as we progress through the school year,” Francesconi said.
Since the last board meeting in September, Francesconi said there were not a lot of updates regarding announcements or changes in procedures.
“We don’t anticipate any sort of changes in the CDC guidance to come our way or changes to come in the form of an executive order,” he said.
The governor’s executive order was extended, but there were no changes.
“There’s nothing for us to prepare for,” Francesconi said.