Confirmed COVID-19 cases among Indiana students and teachers force school districts to adjust reopening plans. Reports of positive tests came out over the weekend and Monday. That follows two Central Indiana school districts announcing positive results for the virus with a student and staff member.
At the same time, educators and school leaders demand more guidance and safety assurances in the classroom and athletic fields, as widespread buildings openings continue this month.
The Elwood Junior Senior High School in Madison County closed temporarily for this week, after test results showed more than one staff member was positive. Students from the high school will be taught virtually for the week. In-person instruction is expected to resume Aug. 10.
The school district, about 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis, had been open for two days. Staff members in close contact with those who tested positive will quarantine for two weeks.
"Based on testing dates, all of these staff members contracted COVID-19 prior to school starting,” Joe Brown, Elwood Community School Corp. Superintendent, wrote in a letter to families -- where he also recognized they were frustrated with the building closure.
“We are confident the plans outlined in our Roadmap Back To School For Families document are working,” he said.
The plans call for each Elwood school building to be closed on Wednesdays in August for deep cleanings. On those days, students will be taught remotely.
Also Monday, a student at New Palestine High School, about 20 miles east of Indianapolis, attended the first day of classes -- after testing positive for the coronavirus. A doctor gave the student the wrong date for when the student could begin school, the district spokesperson Wes Anderson told The Associated Press.
“That student came out of quarantine when they should not have, and as a result, they were in our building today,” Anderson said.
The student was wearing a mask and was isolated after the school was told by the Hancock County Health Department on Monday of the positive test result, the AP reported.
Other cases reported around Central Indiana include a high school football player at, both, Warren Central and New Palestine high schools.
Warren Township Schools are set to start classes Thursday. Students can choose an in-person or remote learning option.
Also Monday, Marion County's Washington Township, the school board voted 4-1 to approve a resoultion to resume athletic activities for grades 6-12. The reversal comes after the county health department said it wanted more data before ruling on contact-sports like football.
The district had suspended sports on July 13, when it became the first in Indianapolis to announce virtual-only instruction would be offered.
Monday's resolution states sports may not continue, and may be suspended, if a head coach or an assistant coach is not in attendance due to COVID-19 implications.
Board member Don Kite cast the only no vote. He called on the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSA) and Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Dept., to take action sooner on policies for fall sports.
“Dr. Caine said specifically, to all of us, that she, based upon her role, would not allow football unless you could be guaranteed or assured both teams were being tested,” Kite said during the public meeting held on a video conference, according to the Indianapolis Star. “We live in Indiana. I don’t know that we’re ever going to get that assurance. The Terre Hautes, the Ben Davises, all of them, we need to know that their players are tested. Otherwise, we’re just throwing our kids into a petri dish that has been opened to open air for a while. We don’t know unless there is testing.”
The resolution states guidance from the Marion County Public Health Deptartment and the Indiana State Department of Health will be followed, even if the guidance is in conflict with IHSAA or the Indiana Department of Education.
The numerous types of health guidance are frustrating some educators.
The Indiana chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union, will make an announcement Tuesday on its members demands for school reopenings.
Associated Press/Report for America's Casey Smith contributed to this report.