Gov. Holcomb takes more action to lessen pandemic impact on schools

The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has released new details on additional actions announced by Gov. Eric Holcomb to help lessen the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hoosier schools.

Public schools affected by the actions include the Huntington County Community School Corporation, which is enacting a schedule to keep students learning through the pandemic.

“From the beginning, we have said the time to act is now, and that action continues to be necessary as we navigate the fluid situation the COVID-19 pandemic has created,” said Dr. Jennifer McCormick, superintendent of public instruction. “The most important charge of Indiana’s schools is to protect and keep students, staff and families safe. The decisions made by our local administrators and educators are doing just that. However, there are educational implications, that if not addressed, will unnecessarily burden our schools. Therefore, the additional actions announced today will help lessen the impact and allow reprieve so our districts can continue focusing on serving Hoosier students and families.”

The most attention-getting mandate is the decision to close public schools statewide until May 1. This extended closure follows recent Centers for Disease Control guidelines to limit gatherings to less than 10, and may be extended through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Schools utilizing eLearning can continue to do so as determined by their local school administrators and school boards.

HCCSC Superintendent Chad Daugherty says the new, lengthier closure time has been addressed by school officials and there is a plan in place to instill “waiver days” and remote learning in order to educate students.

Daugherty said the governor has only issued 20 waiver days, which give school districts more flexibility, but it also means once they are used, schools have to figure out how to continue educating their students.

“Most – I would say 90 percent of all schools – are using eLearning or remote learning, in a combination of waiver days and remote learning to get themselves through the end of the year,” Daugherty says.

In a press release, IDOE says the 20-day waiver extension may not adequately address the needs of local districts and it will work with individual districts and schools to determine the total amount of instructional waiver days necessary.

Daugherty says HCCSC will implement another week of remote learning, followed by four waiver days ahead of spring break.

“Then we’ll do waiver days, then we’ll do two more weeks of remote learning,” he explains. “We’re trying to space out our waiver days.”

An updated schedule from HCCSC that denotes remote learning days for students has been released, Daugherty adds.

IDOE has announced additional considerations for schools:

• Forgiveness from Accountability, Chronic Absenteeism and Assessment Requirements – Indiana will continue to pursue all federal waivers associated with the forgiveness of accountability, chronic absenteeism and mandated assessment requirements for the 2019-2020 school year.

Currently, IREAD-3, ILEARN, ISTEP+, I AM, WIDA Screener and ISPROUT have been canceled. Note, ISPROUT and WIDA continue to be available for early childhood providers that are operational and districts utilizing eLearning.

• Requirements for Grade 12 Seniors – Understanding the acceptable concerns of Grade 12 seniors and their families, IDOE will continue working to develop a timely and practical solution.

• Food Service Waiver – Providing children access to wholesome and nutritional meals is a priority and an action schools continue to take. While schools are finding creative solutions to meet the needs of their students, IDOE will pursue all available federal waivers to ensure zero interruption. To date, 94 percent of Indiana’s traditional public schools are providing or arranging meals.

For a copy of the COVID-19 Spring Testing Decision Letter sent home to parents, visit doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/news/parent-covid-19-spring-testing-decision.pdf. To learn more about IDOE’s work with local districts and to access available resources, and information regarding remote learning, visit doe.in.gov/safety/health/covid-19-resources-indiana-schools.