TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - School leaders are urging families to remain vigilant with COVID-19 precautions over Thanksgiving break.
Schools across Tippecanoe County will reopen for in-person instruction next week after moving to remote learning this month as COVID-19 cases and quarantines continued to rise.
As News 18 previously reported, Jeff High School moved to remote learning last week following a two-week outbreak when positive cases doubled across the district.
West Lafayette Intermediate School also moved to e-learning for two days this week, while Tippecanoe School Corpo. ceased all in-person instruction earlier this month.
Lafayette School Corp. Superintendent Les Huddle says a third of students at Jeff High School were quarantined after the recent outbreak.
"It just came to the point of no academic return," he says. "It came best to, let's go to e-learning, give everybody their quarantine window and then get everybody back after Thanksgiving break."
Sunnyside Intermediate Principal Matthew Brown is confident classrooms will remain open for the rest of the year.
"We've got a very positive outlook that we'll still be here in the coming weeks," he says.
Brown is encouraging his students to remain responsible and safe, which he calls the Broncho way.
"We still want you to follow the Broncho way when you're outside of school and when you're with family and friends and out in the community and out in public," he says. "Our expectations are that our kids live that way and we feel like that's going to help keep them safe."
West Lafayette Elementary Principal Amber Targgart is urging caution so the school's doors can remain open.
"I just ask that we continue to do what we've been doing up until this point in the school year, is be grateful to be together, yet make wise decisions so that we are all able to come back safe and healthy to finish out this semester," she says.
Targgart says now is the time to be thankful to students and staff for getting this far.
"It's thanks to everybody who's been involved," she says. "It's bus drivers and food service and custodial staff. I couldn't mention everybody but it's just been a great opportunity, this a great opportunity to say thank you and continued thanks as we keep going forward."
About 300 students across local school districts have tested positive for COVID-19.
Shortages of staff like bus drivers and substitute teachers due to quarantine are points of concern, especially after Tippecanoe School Corp. welcomes back students as planned next week.
Huddle says the district will begin certifying paraprofessionals to become substitute teachers. Targgart says West Lafayette Elementary is already leaning on ancillary staff to substitute when needed.
Tippecanoe School Corp. sent a letter to parents Tuesday stating the district is expediting the substitute hiring process, waived the standard background check fee and expanded employment opportunities for staff to work multiple positions.
The district has hired an additional 36 substitute teachers and 37 additional staff in areas such as transportation, food service and custodial services.