The Shelby County Commissioners denied Southwestern Consolidated School Corporation’s request for an appeal of the mask mandate during their Monday morning meeting.

The commissioners re-mandated masks in county buildings and at county schools two weeks ago, following a recommendation from Major Health Partners and The Shelby County Health Department.

Commissioners re-mandate masks in schools, county buildings

Later that day, Southwestern Schools superintendent Curtis Chase sent out a letter to parents that he and the school board felt this mandate was “not in the best interest of our students here at Southwestern, especially when we look around and see much larger events taking place” such as Colts games.

“We are able to effectively social distance at Southwestern for the majority of our students’ day and have put precautions in to mitigate and do our part,” Chase said in the letter. “At this time, the data does not suggest that putting a mask on students needs to be one of those precautions in our corporation.”

The commissioners denied the appeal 2-1, with Don Parker voting against the denial.

“I just wish he was allowed to speak so I could hear his comments,” Parker said.

In a follow-up letter sent to parents Sept. 16, Chase said if their appeal is denied, Southwestern Schools would “explore other avenues are available,” this way they can set an example of following procedures to their students.

“We also want this to be an opportunity to model for our students the proper procedures to follow if they are faced with a situation like this in the future they want to appeal,” Chase said in the letter.

Chase posted on the district’s Facebook page Monday following the meeting that he wasn’t notified the issue would be on the agenda, and apologized to parents who asked the district to keep them informed.

“I wasn’t made aware nor communicated with from the commissioners,” he said. “I followed the process the best I could with no information provided.”

He posted that with a third letter to parents, which stated the schools would continue to focus on what is best for students with the mask mandate in place.

“We have many obstacles to overcome as we still navigate our way through this pandemic,” Chase said in the letter. “However, I want to provide transparency to our community that we are doing everything we can to mitigate any issues that have risen and working to fill in any gaps in student learning that have occurred due to the ‘new normal’ the pandemic has created.”

All three letters are available on the school district’s Facebook page.

Other business

In other business, the commissioners approved for Emergency Management Director Ryan Hansome’s to accept an Indiana Department of Homeland Security grant.

The IDHS 2019 Pre-disaster Mitigation Program Subrecipient Grant Agreement amounts to $19,157. Hansome said the grant was from 2019 but not issued in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Hansome plans to use the grant to update the county’s Multi-hazard Mitigation Plan, an emergency plan that must be updated every five years.

“It will pay for it all,” Hansome said.

This approval was tabled from last week’s meeting to give the commissioners time to review the agreement.

The board approved an authorization Monday to proceed for USI Consultants, the county’s engineering/surveying firm. With this approval, USI can begin the Bridge 28 project.

Bridge 28 lies on County Road 350 North, which passes over Little Blue River. USI will look into purchasing area to become right-of-way, and pre-construction inspection.

The commissioners approved an appropriation totaling $1,220,000 for the Bridge 9 construction project. This project was paid for in part by a Community Crossing Grant, which is included in the appropriation. The grant amounted to $824,573.62, and the county matched the remainder of the project cost.

Bridge 9 is located on 600 West over Sugar Creek.

Lastly, the commissioners approved a couple of utility requests. The first one is by Centerpoint Energy, located at 417 Edgewood Drive. The second one is by Great Plains Communication, located at 1092 W. Flat Rock Road.