At last night’s School Board meeting (Monday, August 9, 2021), we made the recommendation to our board members that we revise our current 2021-2022 BCSC COVID-19 Reopening Plan to require universal masking indoors at all BCSC buildings. Board members approved this recommendation, as well as other revisions to the plan, that will now go into effect on Wednesday, August 11, 2021 (TOMORROW). The revised plan can be viewed at the following link:

2021-2022 School COVID-19 Plan_Revised 8-9-21

When introducing our initial plan on Thursday, July 8, with a revised version provided on Friday, July 16, we indicated that we were aware of the increase in COVID-19 cases around the country, of which the Delta variant is the majority, would continue to monitor local spread, and be prepared to make adjustments to the plan, including the requiring of masks, if circumstances dictated.

Keeping our primary objective in mind, which is to continue with in-person learning for all students PreK-12 for five days per week, we have arrived at a time where circumstances warrant a change. Of course, we have paid close attention to COVID-19 related information at the national (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics) and state (Indiana Department of Health) levels. However, our focus has been on local community spread and the information available to us is troubling.

Our local medical professionals, with whom we have worked closely in making critical COVID-19 related decisions since March 2020, have cited the need to consider universal masking indoors. Local data is trending in a concerning direction with increases in positive cases and hospitalizations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers our county to be at a “HIGH” level of spread due to our current cases. Dr. Brian Niedbalski, Director of the Bartholomew County Health Department, has cited an uptick in the number of local cases involving children and their increased level of severity. Internally, BCSC positive case numbers already reflect a pattern that will easily outpace the number of cases experienced in the first quarter of the last (2020-2021) school year. After two (2) days of students being in-person, we have reported 33 positive cases (30 students) after having reported 29 total cases during last year’s entire first quarter.

In pondering our school corporation’s continued responsibility to COVID-19 related challenges, I have consistently stated that sustained progress in our efforts to reduce community spread is contingent upon a community effort. This community effort is occurring as evidenced by face coverings now being required within all City of Columbus and Bartholomew County governmental buildings. Additionally, entities like the Foundation for Youth (FFY) and many private companies have also moved to require masks for all.

We appreciate the community’s assistance in addressing the health needs of all its members and welcome everyone’s support as we continue to navigate COVID-19 related issues.

Jim Roberts