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GREENTOWN — Eastern is aiming to make next school year as normal as possible.

Superintendent Keith Richie announced during Tuesday’s school board meeting the district’s intention to not require masks for the coming school year. Instead, it will be left up to parents and students.

This also applies to staff.

“I’m ready to see the faces of our students again,” he said. “I’m ready to be back where we were two years ago.”

The decision comes after Gov. Eric Holcomb lifted the statewide mask mandate in April. At the end of the month, the decision of whether or not to require masks in public schools will be left up to local school boards.

It’s been a long time coming for school boards such as Eastern’s which have expressed a desire to have more local control on how schools operate during the pandemic.

Richie’s request to move forward without a mask mandate was approved by the school board as the Eastern administration updates its back-to-school plan.

“It’s about time local control was returned back to the school corporations,” said board president Brian Day.

“It’s finally back in hands of who it should have been to begin with,” added member Matt Adams.

The decision could change if the state government announces new guidelines before the start of the school year, however.

Richie said there were few issues last year regarding the coronavirus at Eastern and none the second semester.

The superintendent said contact tracing revealed that most instances of a student testing positive was the result of a parent or someone in their household bringing it home, not the virus spreading from student to student.

Day said the decision would have probably been met with a standing ovation had Eastern parents been in attendance Tuesday.

“I think you heard a pretty resounding thankfulness during graduation on Saturday from our patrons that the kids were back in school,” he said.

Eastern also intends to drop its virtual learning option, barring any sort of outbreak.

Richie said most students who opted for virtual learning struggled, and in almost every case, were ready to come back to school after a few months.

“We had some student success but most did not succeed,” he told the board.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.

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