IPS unveils detailed plan for reopening; includes mask requirement, virtual instruction option

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INDIANAPOLIS – We now know details of the reopening plan from Indianapolis Public Schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

IPS reviewed guidance from Indiana Department of Education, the Marion County Public Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state and city leadership.

“There have been a number of people who we’ve engaged with in conversations outside of IPS, with the health department, inside of IPS,” said Superintendent Aleesia Johnson. “So, as we’re planning we can ask them, ‘Hey is this possible? How do we pull this off?’”

Johnson said she believes the district is doing everything possible to keep students and staff safe.

Here’s a look at the plan.

Masks

IPS students are scheduled to head back to class Aug. 3. Masks are required for students and staff with some limited exceptions:

  • Any student with health conditions that makes the wearing of a face covering a risk to their health
  • When students are performing tasks that cannot be completed while wearing a face covering (eating, drinking, etc.)
  • When students are too young or unable to remove their own mask

The district will provide a reusable mask for all students and asks that families supplement that mask with additional reusable ones. Face shields will be available for teachers to allow for “better comprehension” during instruction.

Mask breaks will be included for students throughout the day.

Social distancing

Students and staff will practice social distancing, remaining 3 to 6 feet apart, with 6 feet being emphasized. Those rules will be in effect for classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, offices and playgrounds.

“While social distancing is very important from a safety standpoint we have to implement that, I also recognize there are things that we give up,” Johnson said.

Teachers have been asked to limit items inside classrooms.

Virtual instruction available

For families that don’t feel comfortable returning to school, the district is offering them the chance to opt in to full-time virtual learning. IPS will provide electronic devices and mobile hot spots, and there will be full-time virtual teachers.

The district anticipates a significant number of students will decide to stay home.

Students will receive a district-issued laptop. The opt-in period for virtual instruction is from July 10 through July 17. Students who go to school virtually must complete all nine weeks of the fall semester before moving to in-person instruction if they want to switch.

School lunch changes

Meal service will still be administered in cafeterias. However, times will be staggered to allow for social distancing.

Students will take their wrapped or packaged meals to their classroom to eat them. Some students will still eat inside the cafeteria itself, IPS said.

Gym class and music class guidance

During gym class, there will be no physical contact activities. Shared equipment must be cleaned before and after each use. Physical training will include exercising, running/walking, jump-roping and non-contact activities. 

Teachers will need to reorganize P.E., choir, band, orchestra, and other large classes to allow for smaller classes, social distancing and other precautions.

One-way hallways

Many IPS hallways will be designated as one way and marked appropriately. All non-essential movement inside school buildings will be limited.

Touchless water fountains/water bottles

IPS facilities will be equipped with touchless drinking fountains, and students will receive their own district-issued water bottle to keep at school.

Manual water fountains will be deactivated or blocked off.

Transportation

Masks are required on school buses and the district will make every effort to implement social distancing. Buses will be cleaned before and after each route.

The school will add more walk zones with crossing guards to decrease the number of students on buses.

The IPS partnership with IndyGo will continue for the school year. The agreement allows IPS high school students to ride IndyGo buses to and from school for free.

Health and safety

School nurses will be on-site to screen students and staff exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Each IPS building will have a designated isolation room, and the district said “proper protocols” will be followed in the event of positive cases.

“We’ll have wipes, paper towels, cleaning solutions available for the use of the adult in the classroom, then also those deep cleaning protocols our custodians have been implementing,” Johnson said.

IPS said it will follow local, state and national guidelines for reporting COVID-19 cases.

Any student or staff member with a fever above 100.4 degrees or COVID-19-like symptoms should not come to school.

Symptoms to monitor

IPS said it expects families to monitor their children for potential COVID-19 symptoms. Those experiencing the following symptoms should stay home:

  • Fever (over 100.4 F) or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

$15 million investment

IPS is investing $15 million into its COVID-19 response plan. Those expenses include iPads and Chromebooks, masks, face shields, hand sanitizer and more.

Here’s a breakdown of school supplies IPS bought:

  • 200,000 disposable face masks to use as back up for staff and students who arrive to school without their masks
  • 4,000 face masks and 3,200 face shields for school-based staff to wear
  • 32,000 washable masks for all students to each have a mask
  • 3,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to be placed in all classrooms and office spaces across the district
  • 80 touchless water fountains to provide at least one fountain per school. More will be purchased as the supply becomes available
  • 35,000 water bottles so each student has a water bottle at school they can fill with water at the touchless water fountains

IPS will hold a virtual family town hall Monday. The district has put together a website about its reopening plan.

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