Students and school staff around the Tri-State are preparing to return to the classroom for the 2021-2022 school year, and districts throughout the area are developing reopening plans designed to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Though many districts have decided that masks will be optional upon the start of the upcoming school year, state health departments and the CDC have urged education officials to require masks indoors.
Here's where our local school districts currently stand for the start of the new school year.
Diocese of Evansville Catholic Schools
The Diocese of Evansville Catholic Schools district will temporarily require masks in its schools.
Starting Monday, Aug. 16, the district will require all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to wear masks while inside.
The district had previously said it wouldn't make masks a requirement, but due to the uptick of COVID-19 cases in the area, the temporary mask mandate was implemented.
Website: Catholic Diocese of Evansville
Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation
Depending on the current rate of COVID-19 spread in Vanderburgh County, students in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation may or may not be required to wear masks while indoors.
Students in the EVSC will return to the classroom beginning on Monday, Aug. 9.
On Aug. 9 and Aug. 10, EVSC students with last names "A" through "J" will return to class, with students whose last names begin with "K" through "Z" attending on Aug. 11 and Aug. 12.
On Friday, Aug. 13, all EVSC students will return to the classroom.
Metropolitan School District of Mt. Vernon
The Metropolitan School District of Mt. Vernon in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, says masks will be required for all students and staff, at least for the start of the school year.
MSD of Mt. Vernon says masks will be required in schools from the first day of class on Tuesday, Aug. 10, until students return from Labor Day weekend on Sept. 7.
The district says the mask requirement may either be lifted or extended, depending on future guidance from the Posey County Health Department.
South Spencer School Corporation
The South Spencer School Corporation says it won't be requiring students and staff to wear masks for the 2021-2022 school year.
Masks will also be optional for bus drivers and students who are on the school bus, according to the district.
The first day of school for students in the district was Wednesday, Aug. 4.
Warrick County School Corporation
The Warrick County School Corporation will require masks for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
WCSC leaders say masks will be required inside all of the school corporation's buildings for at least the month of August.
The district plans to monitor COVID-19 data on a weekly basis and will make its next decision on masks accordingly.
While the district's mask policy has changed, WCSC students will still return to class on Aug. 11 under the colored three-tier safety plan.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has signed an executive order that requires all teachers, students, staff, and visitors to wear masks in schools throughout the state.
The order applies to all private and public K-12 schools, Pre-K schools, and childcare facilities.
Governor Andy Beshear says the order is how they plan to protect students and keep them in school. He says the order is supported by a coalition of every single public health entity in Kentucky.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is also backing the governor’s mandate, saying that masks in schools will help keep children safe and protect the workforce of Kentucky by keeping parents at work.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker says that masks will be mandatory in all Pre-Kindergarten through 12-grade facilities throughout the state.
Gov. Pritzker announced the decision on Aug. 4 and said that it was a step being taken in the fight against the spread of the Delta variant.
The governor also said new mask and vaccine rules would be put in place at long-term-care facilities and congregate facilities like veteran’s homes, corrections facilities, and Department of Human Services developmental centers and psychiatric hospitals.
This is a developing story that will be updated frequently. School reopening plans are subject to change based on new guidance from local, state, and federal health officials.