IN Focus: Holcomb, ISTA president discuss back-to-school COVID-19 concerns

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — Schools are still deciding how to safely start the fall semester.

Some are seeking clearer guidance from the state, especially when it comes to requiring masks.

Right now, parents across the state are weighing how to continue their child’s education during a pandemic.

“I would hope that families would stay with their school home district,” said Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill.

It all depends on what districts are offering. For some, that’s the option of in person or online schooling.

“I’ve been flat out impressed, quite frankly, by school corporations all over the state of Indiana,” said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. “Urban, rural, suburban schools putting forth plans that provide those options.”

However, not every district can give an alternative option – which some fear could result in dropouts. Fewer students means less funding.

Governor Holcomb said he isn’t ready to freeze last year’s enrollment dollars to help.

“What would it take for you to get there to actually freeze enrollment for another year?” asked reporter Kayla Sullivan.

“Well, I want to see what the numbers look like come fall when students are back,” said Holcomb. “When parents are trying to make the determination, so we will know a lot more in a month, two months, or three months how schools are not just staffed but how schools are populated, and which schools are.”

Holcomb is also still debating whether he will mandate masks in schools.

“There’s a lot of different opinions on this front as well,” said Holcomb. “Even in the medical community and so we are factoring in all of those considerations including different age groups.”

ISTA said it believes grades 6-12 should have mask mandates in school.

“They should be mandated for all adults and staff that are in the building,” added Gambill. “But we wanted to give some consideration to kindergarten through fifth grade in knowing that part of the job during the day will be teaching those kiddos, especially those kindergarten, first, second grade just how to wear them and giving them a chance to get used to that.”

Holcomb said he’s not giving himself a deadline for these decisions but said he will give them enough time to prepare safely.

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