INDIANAPOLIS — The rapid spread of COVID-19 is forcing school districts in central Indiana to make some tough decisions.
In Henry County, the Shenandoah School Corporation moved its instruction to e-learning for the next two weeks, and canceled sporting events and practice until further notice.
“This all came about yesterday afternoon, and the call-out went out, the school system sent a one call, and we’ve done 290 tests today since 10:30,” Angela Cox, a public health nurse and administrator with the Henry County Health Department, said Monday.
The health department set up a drive-through testing site outside of the elementary school Monday. The district made the decision to close for a couple of weeks after 20% of its students and teachers called out due to proximity of positive cases.
“Today, we’ve surpassed that with the positive cases that we were able to identify,” Cox added.
Centerville-Abington Community Schools put out a post on social media to let families know they will begin requiring masks on Tuesday. The Wayne County Health Department said they have noticed a significant increase in testing demand.
“Schools are kind of feeling the rush of needing to get kids tested,” said Christine Stinson, executive director of the Wayne County Health Department. “The kids are becoming symptomatic. We have one school district that has 200 kids in quarantine today.”
Experts with the Regenstrief Institute urge parents to put masks on their children while at school, regardless of vaccination status. They say this could help keep children in the classroom this year.
“As we saw last year, most Indiana schools were able to have a safe school year in person with some precautions in place,” said Brian Dixon, director of public health informatics at Regenstrief. “The distancing the kids a little bit in the classroom, the requirements of masks.”
Henry County health officials hope families grant districts patience and grace as they navigate this next challenge.
“It’s a rough decision for the school boards, and I don’t envy the position they’ve been put in because all local health departments were put in that position pretty much all year last year,” Cox said.