Indiana schools to have flexibility when reopening

Students in Indiana will return to school in the coming months, but what that looks like will vary widely across the state.

Posted: Jun 10, 2020 9:51 AM

Indianapolis (AP) — Students in Indiana will return to school in the coming months, but what that looks like will vary widely across the state.

Following the Indiana Department of Education’s release of school reentry guidelines last week, State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick addressed teachers and administrators during a webinar Tuesday, emphasizing the freedom local leaders have to determine how their schools will operate during the coronavirus pandemic.

With many schools starting the academic year by early August, some are expecting to hold all or most classes online, McCormick said. Others — especially in rural areas — plan to return to the “brick and mortar” setting as soon as possible. Numerous “hybrid schedules” are also taking shape, allowing students to alternate days spent learning in the classroom and remotely.

“We’re all trying to get schools back in,” McCormick said. “We just have to remember that that’s going to look different across counties and across our state.”

The reentry plan provided by the state is broad and non-mandatory, meaning it will be up to school districts to decide whether students and faculty would have to undergo health screenings, wear masks and adhere to social distancing best practices.

Some schools could choose to require masks at all times, while others might elect to only require them for certain activities or not at all, McCormick said. To assist, the governor’s office is planning on purchasing 2 million masks for distribution by the state’s education department. It’s not a long-term fix, but rather a way to help out schools that will require them to be worn, she said.

Questions were raised during the webinar about how districts should proceed when there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their school populations. According to the state recommendations, schools should close for two to five days so that facilities could be cleaned, further testing could be conducted and contract tracing efforts could be made. The in-and-out nature could mean schools holding in-person classes will have to identify “unique” solutions to minimize disruptions.

“The six feet apart, the time that might be needed for schools to be cleaned, it’s going to be tough,” McCormick said. “The (state) guidance left enough room and flexibility in it, though, for smart solutions to these things.”

Uncertainty also remains about waivers that schools were granted to reimburse them for providing needy students with grab-and-go meals, which are set to expire Aug. 30. McCormick said answers about those should come soon.

The “lack of continuity” stems from variations in the prevalence and spread of coronavirus in different communities, McCormick said, adding that there will be no requirements or approvals necessary for schools’ reentry plans. The onus is instead on individual school boards and local health departments to develop specific policies for their districts.

The state will continue to update its school reentry guidance in response to pandemic changes. The first change, noted during the webinar, eliminated a previous recommendation for physical barriers between drivers and students on school buses due to safety concerns. Additional guidance for performing arts activities such as marching band and choir are also expected in the near future.

“A lot of things are playing into this,” McCormick said. “It may not look exactly how we want it to look, but given the situation with COVID, you’re going to have to have some flexibility.”

___

Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 111505

Reported Deaths: 3506
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20699758
Lake10217318
Elkhart6368109
St. Joseph604597
Allen5965200
Hamilton4676109
Vanderburgh334129
Hendricks2650122
Monroe240836
Johnson2257122
Tippecanoe221013
Clark211756
Porter205244
Cass19319
Delaware187061
Vigo176622
Madison157775
LaPorte136737
Floyd130361
Howard127563
Kosciusko119017
Bartholomew114957
Warrick114135
Marshall98524
Dubois94918
Boone94446
Hancock90542
Grant88233
Noble88132
Henry76324
Wayne73914
Jackson7349
Morgan69638
Shelby66529
Daviess64127
LaGrange63011
Dearborn62628
Clinton59112
Harrison56024
Putnam5329
Montgomery50521
Lawrence50328
Knox4869
White47914
Gibson4744
Decatur45339
DeKalb45011
Miami4243
Fayette41813
Greene41835
Jasper3822
Steuben3677
Scott35310
Sullivan32912
Jennings30912
Posey3020
Franklin29725
Clay2925
Orange28224
Ripley2788
Carroll27013
Wabash2638
Washington2581
Whitley2526
Starke2517
Wells2472
Adams2443
Jefferson2433
Fulton2352
Huntington2213
Spencer2194
Tipton21722
Perry20913
Randolph2067
Jay1700
Newton17011
Owen1641
Martin1620
Rush1514
Pike1411
Vermillion1260
Fountain1152
Pulaski1141
Blackford1132
Crawford1030
Brown1013
Parke932
Benton880
Union770
Ohio767
Switzerland680
Warren401
Unassigned0225

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