For Carmel Clay Schools Supt. Michael Beresford, guiding a school district through a pandemic is a bit like wandering through a fog.
But now that the state has released its guidelines for reopening schools, he said the vision is starting to become a bit clearer.
“I’m now beginning to see shapes in the fog, and as we progress, the fog is lifting,” he said. “I’m getting a little more optimistic about it because I can see some of these things working.”
The state’s nearly 40-page document, Indiana’s Considerations for Learning and Safe Schools or IN-CLASS, released June 5, offers many recommendations but few mandates for reopening schools, which may begin holding in-person classes as soon as July 1. Carmel expects to begin its school year as scheduled Aug. 11, but it’s not yet clear what that will look like.
Beresford said the district is forming plans for three scenarios: Most students back in the classroom, all students learning virtually and a hybrid of the two, with smaller groups of students in the building at a time. Which set of plans are in place at the start of the school year will be dependent on advice from county health officials and the presence of COVID-19 in the community at that point.
“I could see using all three of (the scenarios) in the fall, depending on what the setting is and what our medical community recommends,” Beresford said. “The short of it is, we have to be prepared for anything.”
Beresford said a virtual learning option will be available at all times for students and teachers who are unable to attend in-person classes because they have compromised immune systems or other risk factors.
All school employees and visitors will be screened with questions about possible exposure to COVID-19 before entering the building, and parents will be asked to follow the same guidelines before sending students to school. Temperature screenings are not planned at this point except for those exhibiting symptoms.
Social distancing, face masks and other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be used “to the greatest extent possible,” Beresford said. The IN-CLASS guidelines state that the measures can look different depending on the school district and grade level.
Beresford said the district has begun stocking up on face masks, hand sanitizer and other equipment to clean school facilities. CCS is buying the supplies in bulk to get a lower price. The state may reimburse schools for some COVID-19-related costs, but it’s not yet clear how much of the expense districts will need to fund on their own.
School administrators want to finalize the plan in the next couple of weeks and then gather feedback on the proposal from parents. Teachers will be trained on new policies and procedures in the weeks leading up to the start of school.
See the state’s IN-CLASS guidelines at doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/news/june-5-class-document.pdf.