Is the new SACS quarantine policy legal? District seeks ‘further guidance’

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The day after the Southwest Allen County school board voted to recommend a new quarantine policy, its legality has been put into question.

While the school board voted down a plan that required masks for the entire district, Board Member Tom Rhoads proposed a motion for a change in the quarantining policy. The plans calls for a student who was considered a close contact to not have to quarantine if the student and the person who tested positive were both wearing masks.

That motion passed with a four-to-one vote. Mills, Gilpin, Rhoads and Board Vice President Jennifer Bennett voted in favor of it while Board Secretary Jennifer Couch voted against.

On Tuesday night, Superintendent Park Ginder said he’d have to figure out how the new policy would work and questioned if it had legal standing. The policy would differ from the executive order Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed, which allowed close contacts to remain in the classroom, only if masks are required for the entire school.

On Wednesday, Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter suggested that the Southwest Allen policy would not be able to be implemented.

“Since the quarantine rules are set at the state level, neither the local school boards nor local health departments have the authority to create less stringent rules than the state,” Sutter said in a statement. “We are actively engaged in discussions on this issue and will continue to work toward consistency in following state requirements.”

WANE 15 was also given a statement from a spokesperson for Southwest Allen County Schools. It laid out what the school board recommended to the district, but also said the new policy had yet to be put in place.

“At this time, the board’s recommendation is being reviewed by legal counsel to determine if it meets the state’s requirements,” the statement read. “Until we receive further guidance, SACS will continue to follow the current policies and procedures communicated in the board approved Return to the Classroom Plan. Any changes to the current plan will be communicated to our families as soon as possible.”

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