Indianapolis districts will open in-person and online on scheduled start dates

A yellow school bus is parked in front of the brick building of Thomas Gregg Neighborhood School in Indianapolis, Ind.

School districts across Indianapolis will reopen for the upcoming academic year with in-person instruction and offer virtual instruction for students who are uncomfortable or unable to return to classrooms, according to a letter shared by districts Wednesday.

The announcement comes about a month before many Indianapolis schools are scheduled to begin the school year in late July or early August. More than 150,000 students attend the city’s 11 districts and dozens of independently managed charter schools.

Districts will release more detailed plans in July on safety procedures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, including how they will screen for symptoms, use face masks, and promote social distancing. The mayor’s office of education innovation, which oversees most of the city’s charter schools, said more guidance is also expected on whether Indianapolis charter schools will return to full-time, in-person instruction on schedule.

District schools will allow any students who wish to attend in-person to come full-time. Officials had discussed several steps that could mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure that fewer students were in buildings, such as alternating between in-person and online instruction or having certain grades continue remote learning.

Indianapolis Public Schools, the state’s largest district, has been surveying parents about returning to school. Of the nearly 4,500 responses received as of Tuesday, about a third said they would enroll their children in a full-time virtual option if it is available.  

Bus transportation poses a particular challenge. Officials are likely relying on many parents to choose to keep their children home or to drive them to school rather than relying on buses. 

Educators have warned that reopening schools will likely be an expensive venture. Last week, for example, IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said the district had spent nearly $1 million on hand sanitizer.

The state announced earlier this month that Indiana schools would be allowed to reopen and issued recommendations for screening students and staff, creating individual health plans, and maintaining social distancing. But Indianapolis has been hit particularly severely by the coronavirus compared to the rest of the state, and Marion County leaders delayed announcing whether campuses would reopen

Coronavirus cases have been falling in Marion County. As of Tuesday, Indiana had 43,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the State Department of Health. More than 2,300 people have died.

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