Masks will stay at Northwest Allen County Schools through the end of the semester, the board decided in a split vote Wednesday night.
"Absolutely not," board President Kent Somers said after a lengthy debate conducted virtually.
He and member Steve Bartkus pushed to return to a mask-optional policy but again were outvoted by Liz Hathaway, Kristi Schlatter and Ron Felger. They asserted the requirement would keep more students in classrooms.
Data provided by Superintendent Chris Himsel supported that logic. Only 14 students were quarantined in the last two weeks, he said. Without the mandate, he said, stricter quarantine rules would be in place, leading to 300 student quarantines.
The mandate, which took effect Sept. 1, was set to expire 11:59 p.m. Thursday before the board's vote.
"We're never going to get to zero (cases), guys," Somers said. "How long are we planning to have these policies in place?"
He questioned the board's legal counsel, Mark Scudder of Barnes & Thornburg, what would happen if the district flouted the quarantine rules. Scudder warned the district it would likely be sued and could risk losing state funding.