Parents push petition to see Lawrence Township school go 100% virtual to start the year

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LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, Ind. — School districts back to school plans are leaving certain parents and teachers at odds with their local administrators.

A petition is going around Lawrence Township asking the school to change course from allowing children back to school.

“We will most likely we will need to switch to an all-virtual environment anyway in the upcoming days,” details petition creator Erin Leraris, referencing positive cases in other districts who have returned already, “Does it make sense to continue to spend our limited resources preparing for that instead of getting as many kids connected as possible?”

More than 500 petition signers including Leraris are calling for the district to go 100% virtual until Marion County is at a less than 5% positivity rate.

“The World Health Organization has said that at that 5% positivity mark, that it has some indication that the virus is being managed in a community,” explains Leraris.

The district says they saw the petition before announcing their plans. Currently, the lower schoolers will go back full virtual or in person, while the upper school students will have either virtual or a hybrid schedule of half virtual and half in person. A statement from the district about the petition is below.

“We were made aware of this petition several weeks ago, prior to the delay of the start to the school year. Since that time, additional adjustments have been made to the re-opening plan, all with the full support of the Marion County Public Health Department. The LEA has been involved in all planning discussions. Teachers with specific individual concerns have been encouraged to contact HR. Additionally, a virtual and live option has been made available to all families, K-12.”

“In our district, 50% of our high school students still represents 12,000 students,” says Leraris, “Those students eat lunch over four periods, that’s still 300 students gathering in the cafe every day for lunch. Not only are our teachers responsible for figuring out how physically distance as many as 25 students in one classroom, but then also prepare for multiple learning modalities, face to face, and hybrid, and virtual. I am not anti-Lawrence Township, in fact we are starting our 16th year with the district with our third child. We choose Lawrence Township because of the fantastic teachers we have had. Our teachers have endured constant moving evaluation procedures, public derision, active shooter drills, and they are now saying they can not do it all.”

The district says they did consult with the Lawrence Education Association (LEA). LEA President Justin Brown says the association is also in favor of 100% virtual. Their statement on the matter is below.

“As the President of the Lawrence Education Association, I must recognize this as a rapidly unfolding situation. Our LEA executive team is working for the benefit of our staff, students, and families. We are working with our parents and our Superintendent to create the best reopening plan for Lawrence Township.

LEA President Justin Brown

While the official LEA position is to reopen schools under a 100% virtual model until it is deemed safe, we continue to seek solutions to best meet the needs of our diverse community.”

“I’m aware that in choosing an all-virtual environment there are families, and a significant portion of families, that will struggle, but this is not a school district problem it’s a community problem, and it requires a community solution. There are options out there to make accommodations for our vulnerable students, and that’s what I’m asking the school to do,” continues Leraris, while adding an idea for children who may struggle with virtual learning, “How does the district set up what I would call ‘connection campuses’ where students can come to one of the sixteen buildings for help connecting to learning, for meals, for a safe environment, to be with students with who have two working parents at home, and can not facilitate learning activities.”

The district says a survey showed that 65% of Lawrence Township students would be heading back to school for in-person learning. Teachers will be the first to return to Lawrence Township schools on August 10th, with kids returning three days later. Leraris says when their petition is large enough and diverse enough, she will present it to the school district.

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