INDIANAPOLIS — As Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb considers a face mask mandate for schools, some lawmakers hope he considers much more for schools in the fall.
State Rep. Chris Campbell, Lafayette, (D) said she thinks Indiana is sitting on the sidelines when it comes to preparing schools to reopen.
“There were shortfalls in the budget to begin with for our traditional public schools they were barely making ends meet as it was,” said Campbell. “Now, they have an additional expense of having to hire those extra teachers and have that protective equipment in place the masks, the disinfectants.”
Governor Holcomb announced there would be more information coming soon for schools on how to get personal protective equipment help. The state is leaving it up to each school district on how to keep students safe this fall.
Some have chosen to go online completely, others are pushing back start dates, and some are offering both virtual and in-person options. Then there are districts that can’t offer online school due to money or location.
“They’re not even sure what their funding is going to be because they don’t know which families are not going to return their children to the schools because of concerns of safety,” said Campbell.
If online isn’t an option – districts worry a lot of students may drop out. Fewer students means less funding in Indiana.
Our Kayla Sullivan asked the governor whether he plans to freeze enrollment to last year’s numbers so schools wouldn’t be impacted by people dropping out due to the pandemic. The governor said he is not there yet.
“There’s a lot of unknowns going into this,” said Campbell. “So, I think one thing that governor could do is assure funding at least last year’s levels and start to look at how much PPE is going to cost.”
Right now, there are no state requirements for safety precautions, just suggestions.
Perry Township parent Leslie Wells is doing a little extra for her school because she can afford it.
“We went for the gallon jugs of hand sanitizer rather than the smaller bottles,” said Wells.
She hopes others will do the same.
“We just don’t know really what the schools have or what they will have in the future and we can’t provide every classroom something, but we can take care of our classrooms,” said Wells.
She supports a state school safety mandate as long as it is properly funded.
“That does take money, that’s how this works,” said Wells. “I think the government should kick in to help school districts fund these because our school districts already many of them are struggling and this is an added expense.”
The state has announced it plans to spare education from any budget cuts next session.
Holcomb said schools have multiple streams of funding to help right now including from the CARES Act.
It’s unknown exactly how much the extra precautions to safely reopen will cost each district.