On Friday, Sept. 3, Warrick County School Corporation Superintendent Todd Lambert discussed the school’s precautions towards COVID-19 as the new school year began during the ongoing pandemic. School began in early August and looks radically different from previous years.
Superintendent Lambert, who took the position over the summer, is not new to educational administration and understands the difficulty that adjusting to the pandemic will present.
“Last year there was so much unknown,” Lambert said. “We had no vaccinations and no idea how fast it would spread. When we were in the unknown we were particularly cautious. It was the same in Colorado where I was from. We had strict quarantine guidelines. We had healthy kids getting sent home because of possible close contact. It severely strained the system.”
Moving into this new academic year, schools were presented with two options: allow optional masking but make the radius for contact tracing students and faculty after a positive case 6 feet (meaning anyone who was within 6 feet of a maskless person who tested positive must quarantine) or make masks mandatory, but reduce the radius to 3 feet.
Lambert stressed the strain that quarantining students had on the school and on parents.
“We were disappointed in how many healthy kids were quarantined last year,” Lambert said. “It put a large amount of strain on families who couldn’t watch their kids and needed to work. When a young kid is at home trying to learn online they still need supervision and it’s much more difficult to learn that way.”
Lambert also emphasized that there are a number of healthy students being sent home after possible close contact in spite of the fact that they never got sick, which means a continual removal of students from the school even if they are not sick.
Now that school has been in session for a few weeks, the governor has issued a statement encouraging schools to opt for the mask mandatory option as it has proven more effective, leading Lambert and the school board to feel vindicated in their decision to make masks mandatory in schools. As of now, school has been able to stay in-person and athletics have continued in Warrick County, which cannot be said for some parts of the state.
“We’ve heard from families who feel strongly on both sides of the [mask] issue and they’ve shared feedback,” Lambert said. “For the school districts masks are not political, we want to keep kids safe and in school. We’re not oblivious to the fact that there’s a national discussion going on regarding masks, but we try to distance ourselves from that to focus on keeping schools open and keeping kids safe.”
Lambert expressed gratitude towards the community for helping see this school year through. While school and every other aspect of life is more difficult than ever, the cooperation of the community is key to keeping things running smoothly.
“We want to thank our community for their support. We know they’re fatigued by this and that it feels like it’s never going to end. We appreciate their support in helping us see it through,” Lambert said.