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State secretary of education refers mask, vaccination questions to department of health

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AVILLA, Ind. (WPTA21) -- School district leaders and parents in our area have gone back and forth about whether masks should be required in classrooms.

If you were looking for a definitive opinion or guidance from the state's top educator on the mask issue, you might be disappointed.

"Throughout the state we are mostly in person right now. In fact, 99% of Indiana's schools are in person with most of them five days a week," Katie Jenner said.

We caught up with Indiana's secretary of education as she toured the East Noble school district's new preschool in Avilla.

Jenner praised educators for helping keep schools open safely but deferred all questions about wearing masks or offering Pfizer shot clinics at schools this fall to the state department of health.

"Pretty soon we're going to be releasing updated summer and early fall guidance that will further provide schools the support they need to stay open in a safe way throughout our state," Jenner said.

East Noble's superintendent, though, says she's excited that 12 to 15 year olds are now eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus.

In fact, she says the district has offered any school parking lot for the Noble County health department's mobile clinic to set up to administer the shots.

"We need our kids at school. It's very important. And if they get that vaccine, they don't have to quarantine when someone else does contract COVID. So that keeps the kids in school and keeps them feeling safer, be able to enjoy school again, get back to normal. That's what's really important. We do know it is a choice. We are not forcing it. It is for those who are most comfortable," Ann Linson said.

She says what educators learned this past school year is that most students who were virtual learners did not do as well as students who were in class.

"Academically they began to fall behind, but they lost interest and they really need that contact and interaction with their peers and with the teachers. So we have worked very hard, I commend our staff for doing everything they can going above and beyond to keep our doors open," she said.

Whether that will include requiring masks in class next fall remains to be seen.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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