Holcomb says decision on remote learning could come soon

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb could decide within a few weeks whether remote learning will continue next fall, he said in a press conference Monday.

Holcomb already closed all school buildings through the end of the academic year, but has not said what the coronavirus will mean for students over the summer or next fall.

“We are going to get to that decision probably closer to mid-May,” he said. “I want to be the surest and the safest in every step that we take. This isn’t a competition to be first; this is if anything a competition to be the safest.”

Holcomb’s statement came hours after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said schools should prepare to potentially continue remote learning in the fall.

“I would prepare for both [remote and regular classes] because it is still unclear what things will look like,” Pritzker said.

Even if schools are allowed to reopen this fall, they likely wouldn’t immediately go back to normal operations, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said last week. Districts could consider a hybrid experience of remote learning and in-person classes, she said. Students could return in waves, or classes could be held in shifts, to split up the time when students are in buildings.

For now, McCormick is advising schools to plan on summer school programs continuing online. The Indiana Department of Education is convening an advisory group, made up of school officials from rural, urban and suburban areas, to help schools prepare for reopening after months of remote learning.

Holcomb is expected to lay out a new plan for the state later this week, indicating that he might roll back some of his executive orders in stages and begin reopening parts of the economy. Hoosiers are currently under a stay-at-home order through May 1.

Plans remain subject to change, though, Holcomb said, as state officials monitor the number of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and available hospital beds. By Monday, the number of coronavirus cases in Indiana rose to 15,961—more than 900 more than the day before, according to the State Department of Health. More than 840 Hoosiers have died of the disease.

“What we have proven, I believe, is that we can manage this, but if numbers turn on us, we have the ability to make changes,” Holcomb said. “Schools fall into that category.”

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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