Washington Township calls off in-person instruction for start of new school year

Washington Township will only offer virtual instruction when school begins this year, a shift in course for the Indianapolis district that had planned to open in-person and full-time with an online option.

The Washington Township School Board voted 3-2 Monday morning to indefinitely delay the return to classrooms as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the country and amid concern from teachers about the safety of reopening.

The board said all district extracurricular, co-curricular and athletic events or programs are suspended until further notice.

Washington Township, which enrolls about 11,000 students, is the first Marion County district to announce plans to offer only virtual instruction and not reopen classrooms. Many Marion County districts are planning to offer full-time, in-person instruction in the fall in addition to virtual options, including the state’s largest district, Indianapolis Public Schools, which released a reopening plan Friday.

In a joint statement posted on the district website, the Washington Township board acknowledged that it must “address students’ educational, social and emotional needs” but also pointed to rising coronavirus rates

“The board is in a difficult position given limited specific guidance from the governor, the mayor, and public health officials,” the statement said. “It is the board’s judgment that the best course of action in the near term is not to have students return to the classroom while coronavirus indicators increase.”

While schools across Indiana are releasing in-person reopening plans, many districts in other states are opting not to fully reopen school buildings. In New York City, for example, students are expected to have staggered schedules and come to school in person part time as a way of increasing distancing and reducing contact with others.

Whether to reopen schools full time has become a political lightning rod in recent days, as U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Trump have called for schools to fully reopen and threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t.

That debate is coming at a moment when Indianapolis schools are on the cusp of reopening. Most schools in Marion County begin in late July or early August—several weeks before schools typically return in Northeastern states.

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

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43 thoughts on “Washington Township calls off in-person instruction for start of new school year

  1. If we never open these schools we will never know if we could have safely. Opening is just part of the continuing phased in approach. If schools open and deaths from COVID-19 spike then adjustments can be made. People who are afraid to try these new approaches need to get out of the way. This decisional paralysis is just hurting everyone.

    1. I like the comments “People who are afraid”. People are dying. All walks of life. Human beings. I commend those that are making decisions to protect those human beings. We don’t need to “try” something to see if someone gets sick and dies. Lets use some common sense with a situation that know one knows what the right thing to do is. I’d rather error on the side of caution, especially with children, then make the wrong decision.

    1. I feel for administrators who have to make these decisions. The guidance they get is “you have to open”….and, oh by the way, figure out how to do it yourself.

  2. David G. 2 people died in Indiana yesterday from COVID-19 and yet we are going to disrupt thousands of kids lives and not to mention the childcare ramifications for all the parents that need to get back to work. Are we going to take everyone’s car away from them because 2 people died in car wrecks yesterday. We can’t sit back and twiddle our thumbs for the next couple years. I’ve personally lost 4 friends/mentors to the virus. I’ve had it myself. This all happened while we were staying in place. The virus is going to be passed around until we have a vaccine. Practicing good social distancing and face masks will help slow the spread while we get people back to work and get students in class. What a shame if no impact to our COVID-19 numbers and we ruin our kids school experience for the next couple years. Let’s not bury our heads in the sand

    1. +1 Thank you Larry. This is just teachers who don’t want to go back to work. Many kids don’t learn as well on line. What about all of the parents who need to go to work to support their families but now will have to pay out day care so their kids are not left home alone? While these ninnies get to decide for all of us, our economy crumbles.

    2. Ask college kids who take online clssses, they are much easier. And they do not learn as much.

  3. Larry P, you’re hilarious. If you never pull the trigger in a game of Russian Roulette, you’ll never know if you would have been lucky. There’s nothing phased-in about sending all the kids to school and cross your fingers that everything turns out okay. This is very likely to end up spreading it to each other, then to the other kids’ parents/ grandparents, teachers, staff, etc. If deaths spike, then you can “adjust”? That is just slap your knee funny! How about we start the experiment with your children? If you say yes to that, then I feel sorry for your kids. Might as well send them to a “COVID party”.

    1. Sorry This is not Russian Roulette where you have a 1 in 6 chance. My 21 year old daughter had it and had very mild symptoms as do most everyone. I’m 62 and had the same result. You say it is “very likely” to spread to all these people. You have no idea how it’s going to spread and yet you want to keep thousands of children home because you are afraid of what MIGHT happen. Nobody wanted this terrible virus to cause the pain and suffering it has put on us. However, your approach to solving the pandemic is just just keep everyone away from everyone else. That is the part that is sadly hilarious. I live in a community where we know all the clerks in the grocery, hardware and retail stores. They have hundreds of people pass by them daily. Nobody has contracted the virus. Simple
      Measures have proven to keep the spread down. Living in constant fear must be very stressful for you.

    2. Rebecca W. – The answer to your question is no, I am not a teacher. And your phrasing is such that you would dismiss a teacher’s valid concerns and blame it on laziness. So, it’s clear where you stand, thanks for your input.

    3. Larry P., my Russian Roulette statement was an analogy, not intended to be a mathematical equivalency. I’m not interested in discussing anecdotal stories – I’m happy you and your daughter didn’t get very sick and die, but it has little to do with the national crisis that’s taken 137,000 lives and who knows how many people with possibly life-long debilitating organ damage. My statement that it is very likely to spread is based on science and what we’ve seen so far when large groups congregate in close quarters and, most importantly, for 8 hours a day five days a week. Check out the fraternities, high school and college football teams, etc. You make it sound as if it is a bad thing to be concerned about things that might happen. Here’s one: Don’t drink and drive. Can you make it most times? Yes. Does it turn out badly only occasionally? Yes. Ergo, not a good idea to drink and drive. For schools, there is an alternative to in-person education. It’s not ideal, but it will save lives. Look at the steep upward curve for all the states that have taken your approach of “Let’s just get on with life.” And I’d say I have about a normal amount of stress, not that you actually care one whit.

    4. My comment stands. Teachers should have to sign the Hippocratic Oath, swearing that they will place students first and will do everything in their power to property educate them as they pass through their classrooms. Not hide behind their unions to protect themselves. Doctors and nurses are going to work! Grocery clerks are going to work! Hair dressers are going to work.

      Teachers – you need to go to work. Wear a mask and wash your hands, but be real and admit children are not dying from getting Covid. Put the children first!

  4. You can’t avoid sickness and death at all levels. Children are not at severe risk, older parents, grandparents etc. are. That will take the education of the kids and their families and keeping kids from those at risk in their families. Teachers at risk whether age or health will have to virtual teach or do administrative duties. You have to make a plan to open school on schedule and be nimble enough to adjust to areas that might need to go back to virtual instruction. No different than opening up businesses, and now certain states are dialing back due to increased cases. Washington township is not showing leadership, but is doing a good job of CYA. It must be nice to be able to use tax dollars and wait until there is a vaccine or the decisions are easier. The private sector can not set back, collect a paycheck, we have to plan, adjust, re-plan, until we get it right. So I hope the rest of the school corporations do what’s best for the kids, do their jobs we pay them for.
    Ron P

    1. Excellent! If you are in a high risk category – maybe you should not be teaching a classroom. Simple.

  5. Washington Township provides probably the best range of socio-economic diversity in central Indiana. Those that are on the less-fortunate-end of the scale suffered during the months of March/April/May/June with regard to advancing their education b/c they were not in school. Many of these students fell behind and will likely fall further behind during this Fall session. I think Washington Township failed at effectively planning a return to the classroom and ended up kicking the can down the road.

  6. Oh, they will vote for us to go back as soon as sleepy Joe is elected, then we can all go back to what work remains of the ashes of our economy in equal misery. Democrats don’t care about the people!

    1. Really? If there had been some leadership at the very beginning of this outbreak maybe we would be in a situation where none of this was necessary. The reason our economy is ashes as you put it, is because the White House didn’t take it seriously enough to begin with – not that our long term economy was that great to begin with, with deficits out of control and no investment in anything important.

    2. Sorry Jolf. Not true. Dems have done all they can to prolong and promote chaos all summer. Now you cry about chaos?

  7. Really Jolf. This virus caught everyone by surprise. WHO, countries all over the world, White House, Congress (who was too busy Trying to impeach Trump), CDC, state and local govt. NOBODY was ready for this And you single
    Out the White House. It is true Trump wanted this to just go away but without his travel ban from China (where he was called a racist) and his quick work to engage private healthcare companies on testing ( because the CDC didn’t really have a testing program) we would be so worse off today. Plenty of blame to go around but start with our friends in China.

    1. Larry, gotta lay off the KoolAid. No sensible person thinks the US did a good job compared to virtually every other country.

    2. Yep. Let’s just blame everyone else. No doubt it came from China but the US knew about this in Feb, if not before – so after that, its all on us. And business people from China were still allowed in. There was a sensible 4 stage opening plan put forward and we/ White House couldn’t even follow it’s own original guidelines. The whole world and his wife knows the US screwed up – but let’s pretend the fault lies else where.

    3. +1 Larry! The states and congress fought back hard against Trump by saying loudly and repeatedly that the US Gov CANNOT make decisions for the states! It cant tell them to open, it cant tell them to not open, it can’t mandate residents of any state to wear masks, and it can’t tell states or school districts to open schools or NOT.

      So again Horatio and Jolf, how is this the President’s fault again? Exactly? Our situation here in Indiana is our own. And the blame has to lie with those politicians who are making the policy for Indiana’s residents. Starting with the Gov and, in Marion Co, the mayor. Start there. Put your disdain and blame where it belongs.

  8. I think the Washington Township school board shows leadership in beginning the year virtually. Obviously this decision creates extreme difficulties and hardships for some parents but it keeps kids and families safest.

  9. Someone had to show some leadership during this pandemic and the MSDWT board just did. Ultimately, they did not select the option I wanted, but I understand their reasoning. Everyone wants to go back to school, but no one wants kids, faculty or staff to die. It really is that simple. Sorry if that inconveniences your politics.

    People who try to turn health issues into political rhetoric really need to pull themselves together and rethink how they got to this point in their lives.

    1. Cindy H., and Michael B,, stop speaking so sensibly! Had the orange one not acted politically from the onset in a vain and failed attempt to salvage the economy for his reelection bid, we would have stifled the problem like virtually the entire EU, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, etc.

  10. Michael B:
    Showing leadership would have been planning ahead and involving their community from the get-go. I live in a district they did that, and it’s been reassuring to see the process work!
    They’ve had since MARCH. When they cite the guv and mayor’s ‘lack of guidance, it pretty much Tells the entire story, doesn’t it?? These teachers phoned it in (at best) in this district during spring online learning. (Yes, I know, I have a grandchild in these schools).
    As several have pointed out, many of these students are the ones who need their education the MOST.
    One solution is to go ahead with the e-learning busy work to keep some type of school activity going on; then, have these kids go to school and complete their 2020-21 grade NEXT school year. The verdict on e-learning was out a while ago in the WSJ, and it was a huge FAIL across the country. If a school district didn’t already utilize remote/online learning, there was ( and will continue to be) very little learning going on. We are failing our kids by failing to act.

    Time for the teachers and this district to step up and do RiGHT by the children they claim to be concerned about.

    And lastly – the Virus isn’t going anywhere until we establish an adequate level of herd immunity. We NEED kids, millennials and many others to get thru their asymptomatic cases!
    The teachers who are truly (and I mean genuinely) at risk need to be the ones to regroup and retrain to help establish worthwhile online learning content. Have them EARN that union salary!!

    1. Oh dear Jennifer B., you’re in the “herd immunity” corner? That will lead to millions dead. But you’ve got an axe to grind with teachers. Just BTW, it’s the entire country’s school systems, at all levels, that are grappling with this issue, not just WT.

  11. Right, and they made plans for the past 3.5 months. Many other nearby districts are opening and offering a remote option if you’re that opposed to the children being where they should be – in school. How are working parents of young children supposed to function in your world of shutting the doors? My grandchild will be at home, unsupervised because this district wants to be a follower. Hint: Guv Love and Mayor Joe aren’t going to set the plan in stone for them.

    Not against teachers that show up, just the ones who can’t seem to put a lesson plan together and constantly cry for more money when they work maybe 9 mos/year. And the verdict was in throughout the state and country about e-learning. Many kids are now behind a half year… guess it’s a good thing testing won’t be part of the new normal.

    Yeah, I think we need to develop herd immunity… not saying we get to 70%, but this is how you burn out a virus. And, maybe we get an assist by a vaccine, maybe not. We can’t rely on that, and I’m not in the camp of shuttering indefinitely. Maybe that has something to do with being at work the past 4 mos and watching many people play victim when they weren’t ever at risk.

    You might review some science and look at other countries that didn’t shut down schools (or their economies) to begin with. They protected the vulnerable/elderly and kept putting one foot in front of the other. It is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.

  12. The Board Vote was 3-2, instead of the usual (mandated?) 5-0. Please name the board member who voted yes and those who voted no.

    ALSO, the Board “minutes” said this was a public meeting, but I can find no notice to the public of this “Emergency Board Meeting”. Please make a copy of the public notice available for all to see.

    1. Penny B. – I am not defending or opposing the MSDWT School Board but I am showing you the public notice for the Emergency School Board Meeting that was sent via email on Saturday July 11th at 1:00 PM to families with children enrolled in MSDWT Schools.
      To: WT Families
      CC: WT Staff
      From: District Leadership
      Re: Special Board Meeting – Monday, July 13, 2020
      The WT School Board will vote on a resolution impacting the reopening of schools. All Washington Township Staff and Families are encouraged to listen to the public special board meeting on Monday, July 13 at 8:00 AM.
      Virtual School Board Meeting
      July 13, 2020
      8:00 AM
      Password: 741378

      The vote was as follows:
      Thurston – Yes
      Turner – Yes
      Dzwoner – No
      Kite – Yes
      Fencl – No

      I have purposely avoided opinions and only included facts in these statements.

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