Pike Township Schools declare e-learning day for Monday and Tuesday due to ‘medical leaves and illness related absences’

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INDIANAPOLIS — Pike Township Schools, also known as Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, announced an e-learning day for Monday and now, Tuesday.

The recorded call, which parents told FOX59 provided little context, was made around 5:30 a.m. Monday morning, not long before children were getting ready to head off to school for the day.

Citing ‘circumstances beyond our control,’ the district announced that instruction would be provided to students following the same daily schedule via Zoom and on Canvas.

All other staff — including instructional, office and custodial — were told to report to work as usual. The announcement was also shared on MSD of Pike Township social media pages.

It took school officials more than six hours to provide an answer to FOX59 on the reason they decided to move learning on Monday to a virtual setting.

“To the best of our knowledge, the issues we are experiencing are related to planned medical leave, illness related absences and the universal bus driver shortage,” a district spokesperson wrote in an email.

The statement also read, “We understand that there have been rumors that our bus drivers are on strike; however, that information has not been shared with us.”

Leah Tyler, a mother of a third-grade student, said she wishes there was more explanation provided for parents who were forced to quickly find options for their children.

Like everyone else, Tyler didn’t find out until hours later that the district was attributing Monday’s change in school plans to a lack of bus drivers available to cover the routes.

“I feel like as a parent of a student, we deserve a definitive answer. We need to know exactly what’s going on,” said Tyler. She said she was likely not alone in needing to call out of work Monday to help accommodate her son’s e-learning.

“I don’t have people that I can just call up and say, ‘Hey can you watch my son?’ I’m a single mom.”

Tyler also said since her son has autism and requires a bit more individualized learning, it’s not as simple to ask another person to watch him as he takes part in online learning.

“I can’t just call up anybody and say, ‘Hey can you watch my son for the day and make sure he does his work,’ because not everybody’s equipped to handle that. For me, it’s a unique situation because I have to make sure that he’s taken care of.”

“He’s not a kid that you can just say, ‘Okay, go out for recess and go out and play,’ because he can get hit by a car because he has no wherewithal — no social awareness, so it’s a dangerous prospect to just have him be with anybody,” she continued.

Her son is part of the program that runs before and after school, known as the Loving Care program, which was also canceled Monday and Tuesday. She said because of that, he doesn’t typically take the bus and normally wouldn’t be impacted by a driver shortage in the first place.

She hopes the school can figure out a plan that allows students to be in-person after Tuesday, which the district announced would also be virtual.

“There was something going on Friday with the bus shortage. People got to school, we worked it out,” said Tyler.

On Friday, the district’s Facebook page said it was experiencing a transportation delay due to a driver shortage, impacting 10 routes.

Pike released the following statement:

The MSD of Pike Township was unable to provide bus service for students today, September 27, 2021. With a shortage of drivers, planned medical leave, and illness related absences called in this morning, it was not possible to cover our bus routes.

Spokesperson, MSD of Pike Township

The district said an update regarding Wednesday will be provided as soon as possible.

Families were also informed on what they needed to know about Tuesday’s remote learning day. A spokesperson for the district said, “We understand that this is a hardship for many families and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.”

It continued, “As we navigate the various challenges presented by the pandemic and cold and flu season, our goal will remain to ensure that our students are provided with quality learning experiences as we prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff, and community.”

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