July 2021 Editor's Note: This story has been updated. Since the time of publishing, the Board of ZCS has reconsidered their COVID-19 protocols as the CDC offers new guidance. On Wednesday, July 29, 2021, the Board of Zionsville Community Schools decided to change its latest rules to make masks mandatory for students under 12 who can't get vaccinated. This story will be updated pending an official statement from ZCS administrators. What a summer it has been! And as we look at commencing the 2021–22 school year that resembles more of a prepandemic start, I spoke with ZCS Superintendent Dr. Scott Robison about what families, students and educators can expect on the first day of school and beyond beginning Aug. 3, 2021. Back to “Normal” Per ZCS’ communications: All plans for the start of school on Aug. 3, 2021, are subject to change based on public health data, guidance, state and/or county directive and the responsibility of the ZCS board of trustees to govern the local public school program. Robison confirmed that all ZCS schools will be back to in-person five days a week. “Our position is we're going to be all in-person,” Robison said. “We are offering a school program that looks like 2019 in terms of schedules and the ability for students to access the curriculum in-person, every day, with our teachers.” Unlike last year, the plans that Robison submitted and were approved by the ZCS board of trustees for this school year did not need the approval of the local health department—another sign that our county is moving in the right direction with regards to vaccinations and COVID-19 positivity numbers. “With the vaccination rates being so high and the very low impact thus far on young people who are unvaccinated—obviously that is something that will continue to be monitored as we go forward—the Boone County Health Department is not requiring us to do permissions for events or to reduce the size of events at this point,” Robison shared. “I think this is very positive, and it gets us back to that sense of ‘normalcy’ that we want.” Robison is strongly advising parents to do their part and keep children home if they are ill and to report to the school when COVID-19 positives are known to help maintain the “safe zone” going forward. Will Masks Be Mandatory? The governor’s order for masks in all school facilities ended on June 30. The ZCS board of trustees decided at their July 12, 2021 meeting to “strongly recommend masks to be worn indoors for people who are not fully vaccinated.” Masks will be required on all school buses and other transportation as required by federal mandate, and mitigation protocols of handwashing, hand sanitizing, enhanced HVAC recirculation, closed water fountains, etc., will continue until further notice. A recent message from Robison to the entire ZCS school community stated, “Masks strongly recommended indoors for people who are not fully vaccinated. Our Board of Trustees was singularly appointed by the Governor to make the final call regarding masks in schools. They and our C19 Task Force continue monitoring for the possible CoVID-19 spread implications of summer travel and the increasing opening of life as we used to know it. And all protocols related to CoVID-19 mitigation in our schools will be subject to ongoing virus spread statistics, public health and governmental officials’ directives, and Board of Trustees responsibility to oversee the public school program in ZCS.” For the record, vaccines are not required for anyone by ZCS, though they are strongly recommended for all who are eligible by ZCS administrators and by the Boone County Health Department. ZCS will continue to comply with health authorities’ request that they supply daily information on reported COVID-19 positives and will continue with contact tracing and implementation of quarantines/isolation periods during illness. The state and county departments of health maintain the right to shut down the schools in the event of an outbreak, and the ZCS school board reserves the right to implement mask requirements if a virus spread compels this action. A New Year Amid New Construction Amid the pandemic and everything that has gone along with it, Robison is pleased to announce that the renovations and expansion to ZCHS are on schedule. As I have previously reported, a second east-west corridor will be created for students to get from one end of the building to the other. Additionally, a new dining commons area will be created to improve efficiency to the way in which meals are provided to the school’s population. Lastly, the biggest item on the plans is switching the high school’s main entrance from the north side (Mulberry Street side) to the south side facing the ball fields. An additional 35 classrooms will be created out of new and existing spaces in the high school, and the building’s capacity will be expanded from 2,450 to 3,050 students once the construction is completed. “It’s a well-coordinated event,” Robison stated. “We are pleased with the progress that has been made so far and feel really good about where we are at this point. Our new elementary building is also looking great. They have wrapped the exterior and its internal work at this point and feel that it will be on time for August 2022.” Robison shared his thoughts on kicking off a positive, productive and safe start to a new school year. “I always find the start of school to be a really exciting time,” Robison expressed. “There are new things, experiences and affiliations that are only going to be sweeter this year because last year was so truncated and disrupted in so many ways. We certainly know more about COVID-19 now, and we certainly have our allies and the health department guiding us should matters change and we have to communicate some sort of alteration in the plan.” For more information on ZCS schools, schedules, pandemic protocols and reporting, construction plans or other school-related information, visit zcs.k12.in.us.