INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WLFI)- Students and parents across the state are getting ready to head back to school later this month. With the COVID-19 pandemic still spreading across the country, many people have unanswered questions. On Thursday, State School Superintendent Jennifer McCormick addressed frequently asked questions and some aspects of the school that are still in the planning process. One thing is for sure though; returning to school will look much different this year.
"When you are designed for an onsite instructional educational environment and you are changing on a dime to do everything, onsite, remote and hybrid it's not easy and it's not inexpensive,” said McCormick. “There is definitely a financial factor in all of this.”
One big expense is that schools have had to buy PPE, Plexiglas, and more technology than they ever have before and some of those items are on backorder.
"It's a supply chain issue with everything that's going on with COVID," said McCormick.
While certain items are proving to be an issue, medical guidance for schools continues to change. Recently guidance from the state came down changing how far apart children have to be when it comes to social distancing.
"Three feet is the minimum but I have visited schools prior to them starting to see the setups I have talked to them they are trying their hardest to get at least a minimum of three feet if not more," added McCormick.
McCormick added that it is not her place to question the guidance. She said they are following guidelines put out by the CDC and state health department.
One of the biggest issues schools are facing is standardized testing requirements.
"We are struggling with if students are virtual how does that work with state-mandated testing,” added McCormick.
Standardized testing is not a one size fits all option. Especially since many of the test take place throughout the start of school, and cannot be taken virtually. In addition, individualized proctoring for the test is expensive.
"If the families say my child is not coming in I don't want them around people but yet we are telling them they have to come in for the statewide test and they are going to be in with all those kids that's where the rub is coming," added McCormick.
McCormick says the only way standardized testing can be canceled or postponed is if the state and federal government gets involved.
"For some of the tests we would need a waiver, a federal waiver if we are pushing for that,” added McCormick. “The state test, we would need state legislation to help us with that or the governor’s office to help us with that right now we have none of that."
Changing the testing schedule or canceling them is something McCormick says will be critical to making the school year as successful as possible.
"Anything we can get waived this year as far as the assessments that are high stake for accountability obviously is going to be extremely important. I am not sure how fair it is given the fluidity of this situation," added McCormick.
McCormick added that the state board of education and school districts are doing everything they can to provide the best education in the safest way possible.