July 30, 2020

Marion County Schools Face New Restrictions, Guidelines To Reopen

An elementary school classroom. - WFYI News

An elementary school classroom.


All Marion County schools will be required to follow a specific health metric for when they can offer in-person instruction, and some large middle and high schools will be required to offer a blend of in-person and remote learning, the Indianapolis mayor and county health director announced today. 

Additionally, masks will be required for students 8-years and older and in third grade and up.

Today's guidance comes as schools begin to reopen outside the county and some Indianapolis schools are deciding to begin the academic year with virtual-only classes for all students. At the same time, the state remains stalled in the governor's reopening plan and a nationwide increase of younger people becoming infected is emerging.

Dr. Virgin Caine, the Marion County Public Health Dept. director, said newly confirmed cases continue to trend upward but the percent positive of COVID-19 tests are trending slowly downward from 10.7 percent in mid-July

Currently, county's seven-day positivity rate on July 26 9.2 percent.

On Aug. 6 Marion County schools can allow all grades be taught in-person if the positivity rate is 5 percent or lower. When the positivity rate is higher, certain limits will be placed on elementary, middle and high school students.

Mayor Joe Hogsett said the metrics follow local and federal health guidance.

“Data drives our decision making. Health concerns drive our decision making," Hogsett said. "We will also act on the best available evidence."

Here are the metrics for when school can reopen buildings for in-person classes:

Percent Positivity Level Elementary School Middle, High School
0 to 5 Green In-person In-person
6 to 10 Yellow In-person Hybrid/In-person
11 to 12 Orange In-person No in-person
13 and higher Red No in-person No in-person

The cumulative confirmed cases for school-age children in the county remains relativel low. The rate of confirmed cases for children in age grous 0 to 4 and 5 to 10 is each around .2 percent; 11 to 13 age group is less than .5 percent; and students ages 14 to 17 is around 1.1 percent.

Last week, Hogett ordered all Marion County schools to delay opening for in-person classes until Aug. 5. The order impacted five districts who planned to open earlier.

Here are some of the requirements for the upcoming public health order: 

  • Middle and high schools with less than 400 students may resume in-person classes if 6-foot social distancing can be achieved in classrooms, otherwise must be operated online or in a hybrid model.
  • Middle and high schools with greater than 400 students must be operated virtually or in a hybrid model.
  • K-5 schools may resume in-person classes.
  • Schools with K-5 and above in a single building that can maintain 6-foot distancing may resume in-person, otherwise grades 6 or higher must remain online or move to a hybrid model.
  • Masks must be worn by students in grades 3 and above at all times, except when eating and drinking. Students ages 3 and older must wear masks when indoors or not socially-distanced.
  • Schools conducting all in-person or hybrid classes must implement social distancing procedures, such as staggering passing periods, implementing permanent seating charts in classrooms, and organizing students in classroom cohorts.
  • Athletic teams are asked to follow current IHSAA guidelines, with further guidance expected in the coming weeks.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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