Schools face difficult decision as Indiana halts reopening

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INDIANAPOLIS- With Indiana staying in Stage 4.5 through the end of the month, schools that had planned to open in July are in a difficult spot.

“I am asking the board to approve tonight an adjustment to our 2020-2021 school calendar,” said Warren Township Schools superintendent Tim Hanson during a virtual school board meeting Wednesday.

Warren Township is now the latest local district choosing to postpone their start date in the midst of COVID 19

“We just have to find a new normal, and this is where it begins,” said school board member Terri Amos.

The change pushes the first day of school from July 29 to August 6, shortening spring break and adding an extra day in May. It would also be a mix of in-person and online learning.

“We do recognize there are still increased numbers of COVID 19,” Hanson added. “We are monitoring those on a daily basis.”

It’s a difficult choice to make, as school districts across the country confront the same dilemma.

“It’s a very difficult decision,” said Dr. Christopher Belcher, Director of Infection Prevention at St. Vincent Ascension in Indianapolis. “You want things under control. You want your students as safe as possible, but if things continue to go up or if things get worse in the fall then delaying it may cut your class time even shorter.”

Also, on Wednesday, Governor Holcomb announced the state would not be moving forward in its reopening plan. Dr. Belcher believes it’s the right call.

“What we’ve seen is we’ve kind of leveled off, if not increased a bit in some of our measures,” Dr. Belcher said. “I think it’s very prudent to be careful in moving much more forward because we’re not winning this, we’re not seeing a decrease.”

Governor Holcomb didn’t rule out a possible statewide mask mandate but stopped short of declaring one right now. Doctors say masks are key in slowing the spread.

“I think a mask requirement would be a very reasonable thing,” Dr. Belcher said. “I don’t want people to get sick, I don’t want to have to take care of them or their loved ones and I think masks are a great way to accomplish it without having to shut things down entirely.”

Warren’s reopening plan requires masks to be worn in schools and also calls for enhanced cleaning and social distancing. State health officials warn COVID cases in younger classrooms could be an issue.

“If she is a kindergarten teacher that has been in close contact with little ones and wiping their snotty noses and having more interaction than we would probably like to see from a social distancing standpoint, then we may have to quarantine the whole classroom of children,” State Health Commissioner Kristina Box said.

As America waits for a vaccine, doctors say simple steps are our best defense.

“Wear your mask, wash your hands, keep your distance, and we can hopefully keep a good thing going and keep us open as much as we are,” Dr. Belcher.

Other school districts like Avon also start at the end of the month. District officials there told us they are still planning for a July 29 start.

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