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.