In classrooms of the Indiana School for the Deaf in Indianapolis, students sit in a semi-circle to easily watch each other communicate in American Sign Language. Some wear clear masks, while others wear cloth ones.
A teacher stands in front of the class wearing a clear face shield or a clear mask. Clear face coverings are required for all teachers to effectively communicate to students through ASL, a language reliant on facial expressions and mouth movements to convey meaning.
Adjustments to pandemic learning proved challenging for all students. However, it looked slightly different for students and staff at ISD.
Andy Alka, ISD principal for middle and high school, said the school has been conducting in-person learning since fall 2020 after teaching and learning remotely for the spring 2020 semester.
The school initially began the fall 2021 semester without a mask mandate but began requiring masks a few weeks into the semester because the number of cases in the Indianapolis area increased.
In the lunchrooms, plexiglass dividers separate students while they eat. Alka said students are allowed to take their masks off during the lunch period to eat. Students can finally see each other's mouths move while they sign.
“You can see the relief in students when they get to take their masks off,” Alka said.