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Indiana coronavirus school updates: IPS expands food sites, partners with Gleaners

David Storey processes samples for COVID-19 at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Laboratory Services Division in Denver, Colorado on March 14, 2020.
David Storey processes samples for COVID-19 at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Laboratory Services Division in Denver, Colorado on March 14, 2020.
Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

March 19

IPS expands food sites, partners with Gleaners

Indianapolis Public Schools is significantly expanding its food distribution efforts during closures due to the new coronavirus outbreak and partnering with Gleaners Food Bank to provide large meal packages.

The district is adding seven additional sites to its breakfast and lunch meal distribution program, which has been available at seven schools and two apartment complexes.

In addition, through the Gleaners partnership, Indianapolis Public Schools buses will deliver packages with enough food to feed a family of four for seven days to 25 sites around the city. Those meals will be available to pick-up from 4-6 p.m. Some sites will have pickups on Mondays and some will have pickups on Fridays, beginning March 20.

Details on pick-up times and locations can be found on the Chalkbeat map of food sites.

March 18

One district closes for the rest of the school year in response to coronavirus spread

A school district in southern Indiana is closing for the rest of the school year in response to the coronavirus, instead shifting to three-day weeks of online classes.

South Dearborn school officials announced Wednesday that students would not be returning to schools after their spring break ends March 30. Instead, students will have an additional week off, followed by online learning Tuesday through Thursday for the remaining eight weeks of the school year. The district will use most of its 20 waiver days granted by the governor for the extra days off.

In a letter posted on the district’s website, Superintendent Eric Lows wrote that local health officials and school board members agreed that closing for the rest of the year “is in the best interest for the health and safety of our students, staff, and community.”

The district, located along the Kentucky border in Aurora, Indiana, appears to be the first in the state to announce it will close for the rest of the school year. Most schools across the country have announced temporary closures, but earlier this week, Kansas became the first state to close schools for the rest of the year in a more aggressive attempt to contain the coronavirus.

In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb hasn’t mandated or pressed districts to close, though most have — including all Indianapolis public schools. Many tentatively plan to return in early April.

South Dearborn, which serves about 2,200 students, also canceled extra curricular activities through at least April 6, but administrators have yet to cancel prom. The dance is currently scheduled for April 25. Administrators said they would reassess in early April.

“We understand the importance of prom for many of our high school students, especially our seniors,” Assistant Superintendent Chris Tanner said in an additional letter to parents. “Thus, we are committed to try and provide this experience on the originally scheduled date.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how the extended closure would affect state testing in South Dearborn schools. The ILEARN testing window is scheduled to open April 20. The state is seeking a federal waiver from mandated standardized testing in the wake of school closures.

All Indiana public schools are now closed

All public school buildings in Indiana are closed, according to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office. Schools are now either offering remote learning, on spring break, or using waiver days granted by the governor.

While other states have closed all schools, Holcomb stopped short of mandating that districts close. But over the past two weeks, Indiana’s 289 traditional public districts have been slowly closing in response to the new coronavirus.

As of Monday, about 95% of charter schools were closed, and only 16 districts were not officially closed — most of which were on spring break, according to Indiana’s State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick.

In Marion County, schools are scheduled to remain closed through at least April 6, when many were scheduled to return from spring break. But the response to the crisis is changing rapidly, and, earlier this week, Kansas became the first state to cancel school for the rest of the academic year.

Hammond bus aide tested positive for COVID-19, district says in letter to parents

The School City of Hammond has alerted parents that a bus monitor tested positive for COVID-19.

The northwest Indiana district with around 12,800 students is closed for at least three weeks. The bus monitor last worked on March 10, transporting small groups of students to the career center and other programs, according to a letter sent to families Tuesday. The person’s spouse is also a bus driver who was working through last week, the letter said, driving students at Charles N Scott Middle School and Maywood Elementary.

Corona Virus Press Release 3-17 Unofficial Confirmation – SCH has an unofficial confirmation (awaiting official confirmation from the State Dept. of Health) that a transportation dept employee has tested positive for the Corona Virus. #schk12 Please click on the below to view:

— School City of Hammond (@SCHK12) March 17, 2020

District officials said students on the employees’ routes aren’t necessarily infected, but encouraged parents to contact their health care provider and monitor for symptoms. The bus monitor and their spouse are being quarantined for 14 days.

The district is still waiting for official confirmation of the case from the Indiana State Department of Health, the letter said.

The news comes as the number of cases in Indiana grew to 39 on Wednesday morning. Of those, 11 cases were reported in Marion County. Two people have died. Most schools across the state are closed, state officials reported on Monday.

March 16

As Indiana records first coronavirus death, Holcomb stops short of closing schools

In an update Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb stopped short of calling on all Indiana school districts to close, saying “ripping that bandaid” would cause hardship. But state officials said most schools have already shut their doors.

Nearly all of the state’s 289 public school districts have closed. Out of the 16 districts that haven’t announced closures yet, most are currently on spring break, said State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick. About 95% of charter schools have closed, she added, and about 70% of private schools.

During the press conference, Holcomb announced the first death caused by COVID-19 in Indiana, putting out an emphatic call for everyone to stay home. State officials said Indianapolis is now seeing “community spread,” meaning the virus is spreading to people locally rather than being found in people who have recently traveled.

“To those of you who think we are overreacting, I can assure you we are not,” Holcomb said. “We are, make no mistake about it, at war with COVID-19.”

There was no update on standardized testing. Last week the state announced it is seeking permission from the federal government to cancel ILEARN and other tests this year.


On Monday morning, Gov. Eric Holcomb said 273 public school districts are closing, using e-learning days, or on spring break. That leaves 16 districts remaining open. The Department of Education is working with those districts to “determine their next steps,” Holcomb said in a release.

More than 200 districts are closed

More than 200 of the state’s around 290 traditional public school districts have closed in response to COVID-19, according to a tweet from State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick.

That leaves around 70 districts open. Unlike neighboring states, including Illinois and Ohio, Indiana has not mandated a statewide closure of schools, so the decision to close is up to local districts.

The state did take a step to make it easier for schools to close last week, when Gov. Eric Holcomb announced districts can waive up to 20 school days in response to the novel coronavirus.

All public schools in Marion County, including 11 traditional districts, are closed starting today.

The number of presumed COVID-19 cases in Indiana reached 24 on Monday, including one new case in Marion County, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

March 13

Indiana wants to cancel state testing following coronavirus school closures

Indiana is asking permission to cancel state standardized tests for schools in the wake of the coronavirus.

The Indiana Department of Education issued a notice to schools Friday saying it had requested forgiveness from the federal government for required state tests. In the meantime, standardized testing for grades 3, IREAD, and 10, ISTEP, are postponed.

State leaders are waiting to get permission from Gov. Eric Holcomb and the U.S. Department of Education before formally canceling or postponing the ILEARN exam.

Some Indiana schools have a head start in the scramble to offer e-learning

As districts across the country race to set up remote learning plans in response to school closures from the new coronavirus, Indiana may have a head start: It is one of only 12 states that already has a formal e-learning policy.

But whether those plans — designed mostly for short-term, weather-related closures — will easily apply to longer stretches of time remains to be seen.

Now, with thousands of Indiana children out of school, the question becomes how far will schools go to continue educating them remotely?

Read the full story: As coronavirus concerns force schools to turn to remote learning, some Indiana schools have a head start

Lilly Endowment, philanthropists launch $16.5 million Central Indiana coronavirus fund

The United Way of Central Indiana launched a $16.5 fund to help individuals, families, and organizations in Indianapolis and surrounding counties cope with the impact of the novel coronavirus.

The Central Indiana COVID-19 Community Economic Relief Fund will aim to support human services organizations and residents who are affected directly and indirectly by the virus.

Although the details of how the money will be spent are not yet clear, the focus will initially be on helping people who are at or near the poverty level, said Ann Murtlow, president and CEO, United Way of Central Indiana. It is likely the funds will help many low-income families with students in Indianapolis schools.

“We will be focused on minimal bureaucracy and getting funds out the door quickly,” Murtlow said.

The fund will provide grants to human service organizations in Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Marion and Morgan counties.

The vast majority of the fund — $15 million — comes from a donation from Lilly Endowment. The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Eli Lilly and Company Foundation and United Way of Central Indiana will each contribute $500,000. Central Indiana Community Foundation and Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will also participate.

(Lilly Endowment, Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, and Central Indiana Community Foundation also support Chalkbeat. Learn more about our funding here.)

“We are particularly concerned about the impact that this pandemic will have on vulnerable members of our community who already struggle mightily to overcome the challenges of poverty and financial insecurity,” said Ronni Kloth, Vice President of Community Development at Lilly Endowment.

Indianapolis schools scramble to plan education and get food to students after closing for coronavirus

Indianapolis Public Schools is rushing to plan for how to educate more than 25,000 students — and get food to many low-income families who typically depend on free breakfast and lunch — after Marion County officials closed all public schools to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The state’s largest school district is closed Friday and is not requiring students or teachers to work from home. It is using one of the 20 missed days that schools will be allowed to waive under new guidance Gov. Eric Holcomb released Thursday.

Marion County schools will remain closed through at least April 6. Indianapolis Public Schools was already scheduled to take spring break for two of those weeks. District officials are still working to decide whether to use remote learning next week, said Superintendent Aleesia Johnson at a press briefing Friday morning.

Read the full story: Indianapolis schools scramble to plan education and get food to students after closing for coronavirus

Hamilton, Wayne, Western Boone County schools announce closures

All schools in Hamilton County will close starting Monday, school officials announced Thursday evening.

The six districts in the area are: Carmel Clay, Hamilton Heights, Hamilton Southeastern, Noblesville, Sheridan, and Westfield.

Carmel Clay, Westfield and Noblesville said the closures will last through spring break, which ends April 10. Hamilton Heights said it would close at least through April 13, when the district’s break ends. The other two districts did not specify an end date.

Most announced that they would be providing online learning for students during the closure. ELearning will begin for students in Noblesville and Hamilton Heights on Tuesday. Westfield did not specify in its online announcement whether it would continue classes.

There were no student cases of the novel coronavirus in the county at the time of the announcement, but a Carmel teacher and Noblesville parent have been under self-quarantine after international travel.

Carmel Clay Schools, which does not usually provide a laptop or iPad for every student, is allowing families to check out devices for the closure. The district’s announcement comes after parents started a petition asking the district to move to remote learning before COVID-19 reached the area.

Western Boone

Less than an hour west from Indianapolis, Western Boone cancelled classes beginning Friday. The district will provide eLearning for students next week, leading up to the district’s week-long spring break.

Assignments will be posted each morning, the district said in its announcement. Teachers will be online from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to answer student’s questions through email. The district is distributing laptops to elementary-aged students, who weren’t already issued a device.

Wayne County

All schools in Wayne County are also planning to close through April 13, starting on March 23. Schools are considering offering eLearning, but said more specific plans are to follow. The five districts in the county are: Richmond, Centerville-Abington, Northeastern Wayne, Nettle Creek, and Western Wayne schools

Schools are able to waive up to 20 days of missed schools the state announced Thursday after the presumed COVIC-19 cases in Indiana rose to 12.

March 12

Marion, Boone districts shut down

All Marion County public schools will close until April 6 to reduce the risk of spreading of the novel coronavirus, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced at a press conference Thursday.

The closures come after a second case of COVID-19 was found in Indianapolis on Wednesday evening, said Marion County Public Health Department director Virginia Caine. The second case is an adult, she said, not a student. She declined to give more information at this time.

“We have not come to this decision lightly,” Caine said. “We believe it is in the best interest of our children and our community as a whole. This is a time for students to stay home and not venture into public spaces.”

The closures will include all 11 Marion County public school districts as well as mayor-sponsored charter schools. All Marion County schools will close by Monday; some districts, including Indianapolis Public Schools, will close starting Friday.

Read the full story: All Indianapolis public schools to close until April 6 amid coronavirus concerns

Zionsville, Lebanon will move classes online for two weeks

Two Boone County, Indiana, school districts announced Thursday that they will close amid concerns over COVID-19, although neither have a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. School buildings in Zionsville and Lebanon will both close at least until students return from spring break April 6.

Students in both districts will have no school on Friday, followed by about two weeks of eLearning, or online classes. Afterschool activities are also canceled. Staff will be in the buildings on Friday to prepare for the transition to remote learning, school leaders said. Zionsville used eLearning days last year, but Lebanon did not, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.

These are the first districts in the state to close without a confirmed case of the virus among students. Last week, schools in Avon closed for two weeks prior to its spring break after two students were confirmed to have the novel virus.Two Indianapolis private schools, the Orchard School and Park Tudor, closed Wednesday; neither had any confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Both Boone County districts cited research from past outbreaks that found that school closures are much more effective at controlling the spread of disease when they happen early on.

“This is an unprecedented time,” Zionsville Superintendent Scott Robison said in a message to parents on its website. “While I know this decision is a difficult one for many families, we take this action in effort to protect against the sort of community spread of coronavirus that has killed vulnerable individuals in many places around the globe.”

Lebanon Schools are expected to return to normal operations on April 6, said Superintendent Jon Milleman. Zionsville did not specify.

Indiana schools can waive 20 days of missed classes

School districts in Indiana will be able to waive up to 20 days of missed classes, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday in response to concerns about the coronavirus.

In a list of new guidelines, Holcomb said schools can use the days consecutively, or spread them throughout the rest of the year. This will allow schools to close without needing to use an eLearning day or make up the days later.

He also more broadly said “non-essential gatherings” should be limited to 250 or fewer people — a directive that applies to school’s extra-curricular activities.

“This is a time when we must do all we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19, protect our most vulnerable populations and reduce their potential to acquire or spread this virus,” Holcomb said in the email announcement. “While some actions are drastic, now, not later, is the time to act.”

The guidelines were released after Indiana reached 12 presumed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the announcement.

Read the full story: To curb coronavirus spread, Indiana schools can waive 20 days of missed classes

The COVID-19 outbreak is changing our daily reality

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