INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) youngest students were back in classrooms Monday for the first in-person learning since the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools down in March.
IPS students in kindergarten through 3rd grade had the option of returning to school buildings with new COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
“It was just great walking through the building and seeing all the sights and sounds and excitement,” said Jean Ely, Principal at Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58 on Indy’s east side.
Safety and social distancing protocols in school buildings include mask requirements, hallway and recess procedures, lunch in classrooms, no-touch water fountains and more. Recess equipment is divided up by class and is cleaned every night. Each student is being provided one mask.
“Doing everything they can to make sure the rooms are set up, and that we’re following protocol with distancing,” Ely said.
In an effort to space children out on buses, the district has been asking parents to seek out alternatives to riding the bus.
IPS Chief Schools Officer, Dr. Nathalie Henderson, said she did notice some longer-than-normal drop-off lines Monday as more parents chose to drive their children to school.
“Most schools probably saw an uptick, but again the principals have been planning how to rearrange the drop-off and pick-up to mitigate that,” Henderson said.
Parents also had to adjust to changes to drop-off procedures at several schools.
“Notification to families went out if there was a different door you had to enter or a different street, so that caused some confusion,” Henderson said. “And then typical kind of first day hiccups on buses.”
However, Henderson said there were no district-wide problems being reported Monday.
IPS officials say 19 percent of their students are opting to stay with all virtual learning for this semester. 21 percent of students returning to classrooms are opting out of riding buses. That, they say, will help efforts to maintain social distancing on buses and in school buildings.
Going forward, IPS plans to go back to virtual learning for the week of October 12, which would have been the district’s fall break. On the week of October 19, older students will starting coming back to classrooms. Students from pre-K to 6th grade will attend full in-person classes. Students in grades 7 through 12 will follow the district’s hybrid model.
While all of this indicates progress for IPS, Henderson is urging parents to stay flexible and keep their eyes and ears open for updated messaging and any changes that may come.
“Please reach out to your schools,” she said. “We’d rather you ask tons of questions than feel like you don’t know what’s going on and you don’t know how to make sure your kid and you feel safe.”