School districts across Indianapolis will reopen for the upcoming academic year with in-person instruction and offer virtual instruction for students who are uncomfortable or unable to return to classrooms, according to a letter shared by districts Wednesday.
The announcement comes about a month before many Indianapolis schools are scheduled to begin the school year in late July or early August. More than 150,000 students attend the city’s 11 districts and dozens of independently managed charter schools. The letter said the districts will reopen on their scheduled start dates.
The letter was signed by the leaders of these districts: Beech Grove City Schools, Franklin Township Community Schools, Indianapolis Public Schools, Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township, MSD of Lawrence Township, Perry Township Schools, MSD of Pike Township, MSD of Warren Township, MSD of Washington Township, MSD of Wayne Township and School Town of Speedway.
Districts will release more detailed plans in July on safety procedures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, including how they will screen for symptoms, use face masks, and promote social distancing.
Schools will allow any students who wish to attend in-person to come full-time. Districts had discussed several steps that could mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure that fewer students were in buildings, such as alternating between in-person and online instruction or having certain grades continue remote learning.
IPS, the state’s largest district, has been surveying parents about returning to school. Of the nearly 4,500 responses received as of Tuesday, about a third said they would enroll their children in a full-time virtual option if it is available.
Bus transportation poses a particular challenge. Officials are likely relying on many parents to choose to keep their children home or to drive them to school rather than relying on buses.
Educators have warned that reopening schools will likely be an expensive venture. Last week, for example, IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said the district had spent nearly $1 million on hand sanitizer.
The state announced earlier this month that Indiana schools would be allowed to reopen and issued recommendations for screening students and staff, creating individual health plans, and maintaining social distancing. But Indianapolis has been hit particularly severely by the coronavirus compared to the rest of the state, and Marion County leaders delayed announcing whether campuses would reopen.
Coronavirus cases have been falling in Marion County. As of Tuesday, Indiana had 43,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the State Department of Health. More than 2,300 people have died.
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