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GREENTOWN — Mask won’t be required anytime soon at Eastern Howard School Corporation, as positive COVID case continue to drop, even without a mask requirement.

As of Wednesday, there were three active COVID cases among the student population, and none among staff.

Those numbers represent “a dramatic decline,” from about two weeks ago, according to Eastern Superintendent Keith Richie.

Eastern experienced its highest number of COVID cases at the elementary, middle and high school levels between Aug. 24 and 30.

Since then, positive cases among students and staff have fallen, according to data presented Tuesday.

Richie said it’s similar to last November when Eastern experienced a spike before cases fell to almost zero. Second semester last year had few, if any confirmed positive cases, the superintendent said.

“I’m hoping that’s the case right now,” Richie said. “I can’t guarantee it. We don’t what tomorrow is going to bring. We don’t what next week is going to bring.”

The trend comes at a school district that is not requiring masks, and at a time where other districts have switched from mask-optional to mask-required.

Northwestern, Western and Maconaquah have all instituted some sort of mask requirement after COVID cases and contact tracing sent large swaths of students home.

Eastern was the first Howard County school corporation to announce it would be mask-optional for this school year in June.

“Right now, something is happening and it’s not happening with masks on our kids,” Richie said. “I know it doesn’t fit the narrative we are hearing from a lot of other places.”

Richie said other schools that have required masks have experienced the same trend in COVID cases – an early spike then drop.

Mask-optional will remain the policy, and it’s one the board is happy to support.

Board member Matt Adams said Eastern serves as a control group and doesn’t want to take away parents’ right to choose what’s best for their child.

“Many will want to praise the masks is what did it,” he said. “Eastern proves that’s the trend of the virus and the masks have no effect here.”

Board members said Richie has been under pressure to require masks from the county health department.

A number of parents, both in favor and opposed to masks, spoke at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting.

The topic has dominated area school board meetings in recent weeks. Tuesday at Eastern was easily the least contentious of them, and multiple board members took note of it during comments.

“You as a public could have not made us more happy tonight that we had a very great discussion and handled it better than anywhere else,” said board president Brian Day.

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

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