FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — At Monday night’s meeting, the Fort Wayne Community School’s (FWCS) board decided masks will be required for teachers, students and visitors this upcoming school year.
Arguably no one is more relieved to hear that decision than Jessica Farlow, a fifth grade teacher at Brentwood Elementary School and a mother of five.
“It’s emotional to me because we’ve literally been spending all summer wondering what’s going to happen,” Farlow said. “I didn’t really think that we would see it. I thought that it would be a fight, a little bit.”
This year, Farlow has children in eighth, fifth and third grades throughout FWCS. Her daughter, Gracie, suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder called GRIN2B Malformation. According to Farlow, the disorder only affects about 250 people worldwide. Gracie also has Chiari 1 Malformation, where her brainstem extends slightly beyond her skull.
The conditions cause Gracie to have seizures frequently and be unable to regulate her internal body temperature, according to Farlow.
“[A] fever for normal kids can mean you know you take some Tylenol and it comes down,” Farlow said. “For Gracie, it’s an immediate ER visit because she will slowly go from about 98.6 to 104 in about 10 minutes and it just keeps going until we get in [to the ER]. Usually, they have to do some major things to get that down and typically in the midst of that, that’s when we do her rounds of seizures as well.”
Doctors warned the Farlow family that these fevers on top of the threat of COVID would be a dangerous combination for Gracie.
“COVID, we were told, early on in the pandemic would be a death sentence,” Farlow said.
Now adding the Delta variant to this threat, Farlow said she had begun to question whether or not keeping Gracie is school full time in-person was smart. However, Gracie is also a child with special needs who relies heavily on the special education support she receives at school.
The mask requirement means it will be safe to send Gracie to school in-person.
“I know that the mitigation measures we used last year worked,” Farlow said. “She made it all through the entire year without a single exposure to COVID and now the prayer changes so I hope we can make it another year, another year with these mitigations.”
Farlow said, as a teacher, this decision also gives her a feeling of relief.
“I am so appreciative,” Farlow said. “The 26 kids in my classroom are going to be there and I don’t have to worry about all the quarantining near as often.”
FWCS’s first day of class is Aug. 16.