Marion County schools monitor COVID-19 data closely as county positivity rate rises


INDIANAPOLIS — Middle school students in Pike Township are moving to a hybrid learning model starting on Monday, and the district will remain in such a model until the county’s positivity rate is at or below 5.4% for at least two weeks.

That is a metric the district set in place before the school year started. It is more strict than the guidance the Marion County Public Health Department released about a month ago. The department says middle schools can remain in-person full time as long as the positivity rate is below 11%.

“We have three middle schools that have 1,000 or nearly 1,000 students. If we were smaller, we would be able to manage the capacity,” said Flora Reichanadter, superintendent of MSD of Pike Township.

According to the latest data from county health department, the average COVID-19 all-test positivity rate was 4.9% on October 5. It jumped to 7.1% on October 16. During the same time period, the 7-day average of new daily cases went from 126.4 cases to 178.7 cases.

“As the data started to climb, we then immediately notified our parents,” said Reichanadter.

Decatur Middle School was planning to return to in-person soon because of the county’s new guidance, but the district is placing that on hold for now.

“The plans made three weeks ago may not be good plans now,” said Matt Prusiecki, superintendent of MSD Decatur Township. “I need some support and confidence from the board of health that this is the right thing to do.”

The district has not reported a single case involving its middle school students as they remain on a hybrid model. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard shows less than five cases involving staff and less than five cases involving teachers at the Decatur Middle School.

“We are prepared to go either direction, remain status quo or go full in-person, but we are not going to do that if that is going to compromise students and staff safety,” said Prusiecki.

Beech Grove Schools has already moved their middle school students to in-person learning full time. Superintendent Paul Kaiser said he is not concerned right now about the positivity rates. He explained that he will become worried when they start to see numerous students in the middle school testing positive for COVID-19.

Beech Grove High School is still on the hybrid model, and Kaiser said that will not change until the second semester. K-6 grade students are learning in person right now.

According to the state’s dashboard, less than 1% of K-12 students in Indiana have tested positive for COVID-19. Several hundred schools have not reported data, so that statistic is not complete yet. More than 1,800 schools have reported data, which is about 80%.

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