Lack of healthy teachers pushes Hamilton Southeastern elementary schools back to 100% virtual


FISHERS, Ind. — Thousands of students at Hamilton Southeastern schools will switch to 100% virtual learning this week.

The move, which impacts students pre-K through 6th grade, will take effect on Thursday.

The Hamilton Southeastern schools’ superintendent insists the district’s elementary schools are safe for students. The problem is the district doesn’t have enough healthy teachers.

“Our positivity rate in the schools is relatively low, but when you can’t provide teaching, it really doesn’t matter,” said Superintendent Dr. Allen Bourff.

In July, parents protested in Fishers to allow kids to return to their classrooms. 

Just a few weeks ago, elementary students resumed in-person education, but a spike in COVID-19 cases is now forcing a return to 100% virtual learning for the district.

The superintendent claims that dozens of Hamilton Southeastern teachers tested positive for COVID this week, and more than a hundred staffers remain quarantined.

“We simply don’t have enough substitutes to cover our classes,” said Bourff.

“It came on us pretty quickly, but we stand ready to work with our schools to get us back on track sooner rather than later,” said Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness.

Just this week, Mayor Fadness went online and urged the public to stay vigilant against the virus, but admitted the school board vote surprised him.  He worries the short, 48-hour notice places a huge burden on working parents and hopes elementary students can return to class as soon as possible.

“We fundamentally believe these kids do well in school, so if there’s anything we can do to get them back in there, we’re going to do it,” said Fadness.

Fadness also released a statement addressing the HSE School Board’s decision to move to 100% virtual learning:

Neither my administration nor our health department were aware of HSE’s decision to move PK-6 education to 100% virtual learning. We have worked tirelessly to keep our schools open and have publicly stated that we believe schools should be open. In fact, today we intended to announce the opening of an additional COVID-19 testing site dedicated to any student or staff member at HSES that had been exposed. I am extremely concerned about the burden that this will cause parents with a mere 48-hour notice for closure. My commitment to our residents is that I will do all that we can to see our schools open again.

Mayor Fadness

The superintendent understands those concerns and plans to reevaluate the decision the first week of December.

“There are all kinds of problems that extend from childcare needs, and we understand that and regret that kind of problem,” said Bourff.

A statement on the district’s website reads:

We continue to experience a lack of sub coverage for many of our classrooms, despite our best attempts to reroute additional resources from the secondary buildings to assist in filling open positions in grades PreK-6. 

The board will reassess the situation for PreK-6 prior to December 4 to determine the best learning model for students moving forward. Students in grades 7-12 will continue to be 100% virtual until Winter Break (December 18). 

We understand how difficult this is for students, staff and families. Please know that we remain committed to serving the school community through this pandemic. 

It was also approved by the board to ensure HSE support staff are paid during this period of 100% virtual instruction for students.  

For families in need of childcare, the Fishers YMCA will be offering an all-day care option at Riverside Intermediate from 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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