Marion County's 11 public school districts will open full-time for in class instruction on their previous scheduled start dates for the 2020-21 academic year.
District superintendents, in a joint statement, said they will offer "instructional options in either the physical school setting or online for students who are not able or are uncomfortable returning to school.”
The superintendents said more details will be released in July based on input from Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine. That includes procedures for symptom screening, social distancing, bus transportation and facial coverings.
Caine is waiting for the county to reach Stage 5 of reopening, anticipated to happen sometime next month. Last week Marion County began Stage 4, which allows full capacity for retail businesses and offices.
Earlier this month the state released guidelines schools should consider when reopening, including changing the length and timing of school breaks, classroom layouts and following CDC guidance that people in schools should wear masks.
The Marion County superintendents’ announcement comes as schools across the state grapple with how to safely return to in-person teaching while the coronavirus continues to spread in Indiana and other states report an increasing trend of infections.
National and local reports show teachers are concerned about returning to buildings due to COVID-19. A survey from Education Week found 65 percent of educators say schools should stay shut to slow the spread of the virus. Last week during a meeting of the Indiana State Charter School Board, the board director said 70 percent of staff at a single school had concerns returning to teach in class.
Remote learning continues to be a concern for some school districts due to students' lack of access to devices or broadband. WFYI previously reported that more than 100,000 children in Indiana don’t have a computer or a computer with internet access at home. Earlier this week, Gov. Eric Holcomb made $61 million from the federal CARES Act available for grants to improve remote learning.
Last week, the Marion County school districts met with the health department and director Caine.
IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said the districts are working with Caine and taking feedback and data to begin formalizing each of their own opening plans.
“It will also allow us to communicate more explicitly to our families as we get these various data points in,” Johnson said.
Marion County public school districts closed on March 12.