To curb coronavirus spread, 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. Holcomb’s decision mirrors a move in Connecticut, where the 180-day requirement will also be waived for schools. Two states, Ohio and Maryland, decided Thursday to shut down all K-12 schools in attempts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

After Holcomb’s announcement Thursday, the Indianapolis mayor directed all Marion County public schools to close until April 6.

Indiana students in grades 3-8 are expected to take ILEARN between April 20 and May 15 — soon after some are expected to return from several weeks off of school as a result of the coronavirus closures. But that could change: The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday that it will consider waiving requirements for statewide tests.

The state exams are already expected to be relatively low stakes because lawmakers approved a “hold-harmless” measure last month that protects schools and teachers from negative consequences from low test scores on the new assessment for two years.

Read the latest on Indiana school closures here.