With statewide hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases at a pandemic-high, Johnson County schools haven’t escaped the wave of contagion fueled by the omicron variant, which now accounts for the majority of cases across the country.

Prior to Monday, Edinburgh schools was the only district out of six in Johnson County with a mask mandate, meaning just three of the county’s 38 public schools required students and staff members to wear masks.

As of Friday, however, Greenwood, Clark-Pleasant, Center Grove and Franklin schools all implemented districtwide mask mandates. Indian Creek’s four schools are now the only ones in the county without a mask mandate, demonstrating a dramatic swing in the virus’ reach.

Local cases and positivity rate have skyrocketed. More than a quarter of Johnson County COVID-19 tests now come back with a positive result, and on Monday, 574 county residents tested positive — a new record, shattering last week’s record by more than 100 cases, according to data from the Indiana Department of Health. The surge in cases has brought the county into the health department’s “red” category, the most severe designation for COVID-19 spread.

At dozens of Johnson County schools, more than 2% of students are out with a COVID case, meeting the threshold those schools set and requiring all students and staff members to wear masks for at least 10 school days, or until less than 1% of those schools’ students are out with the virus.

Clark-Pleasant schools added a districtwide mask mandate Monday, covering nine schools. The following day, Franklin schools followed suit. Four schools — Custer Baker Intermediate School, Franklin Community Middle School, Franklin Community High School and Northwood Elementary School — all breached the 2% COVID absence threshold, requiring a districtwide mandate until at least five schools have less than 1% of students out with the virus.

At Indian Creek schools, administrators set a 4% threshold for mask requirements. None of the schools have hit that mark, with Indian Creek High School the closest to that figure this week with 2.7% of students out with COVID, according to school district data.

Center Grove administrators required masks at Center Grove High School and Sugar Grove Elementary School when those schools met the 2% threshold Tuesday. Center Grove Elementary School hit the mark Wednesday, and the rest of the school district joined the three schools Thursday, as seven of the district’s nine schools now have more than 2% students out with the virus, according to school district data.

At Greenwood schools, Westwood Elementary School’s mask mandate went into effect Wednesday while Isom Elementary School followed suit Thursday. Late Thursday afternoon, the school district alerted parents a districtwide mandate would go into effect Friday, which administrators will reevaluate on Jan. 28, Superintendent Terry Terhune said.

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Andy Bell-Baltaci is the Daily Journal’s education reporter, focusing on the county’s six public school districts, private schools, Franklin College and University of Indianapolis. He is also the lead reporter on I-69 development. He has a cat named Lucas after Lucas Oil Stadium, so the next one is bound to be named Gainbridge. He orders a pineapple pizza from Greek’s every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected] or 317-736-2718. Follow him on Twitter: @andybbjournali1