School days: ZCS ponders return to five-day, in-person school week for all students

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Zionsville Community Schools Supt. Scott Robison said the school district is considering allowing students in grades fifth through 12 to return to in-person classes five days a week as soon as Sept. 28, if the rate of Boone County’s COVID-19 cases continues to fall.

At the school district’s Sept. 14 school board meeting, Robison said recent data reported by the Boone County Health Dept. and the Indiana State Dept. of Health indicated secondary students in the district could return to a five-day-a-week, in-person schedule, assuming current trends continue. The district will examine testing results from the Labor Day weekend through Sept. 25 before officially making a decision.

The Boone County Health Dept. recently reported the county’s positivity rate was nearly cut in half after the Indiana State Dept. of Health announced an additional 15,814 statewide COVID-19 test results were added to cumulative totals from a lab that recently began sharing electronic results.

As of press time, the state’s online county-level coronavirus dashboard, at coronavirus.in.gov, indicates Boone County’s seven-day positivity rate is 2.73 percent and that the county’s positivity rate is trending downward. The dashboard ranks counties with scores that reflect a point-ranking system that measures a county’s seven-day positivity rate and number of positive cases per 100,000 residents. Boone County is currently one of the lowest-ranking counties.

“When we saw the state of Indiana’s department of health began weighing in on the disease spread metrics, we thought that signaled a change,” Robison said. “When it matched up with the Boone County health numbers two weeks ago, we certainly took notice because it’s the first time our county metric has been in the low category. We have said since July 21 that if we get into the low category we would begin considering, is that going to be sustained enroute to doing what we had originally planned in mid-July, which was to be in school every day.”

Robison said there has been no instance of COVID-19 spread within any of the district’s schools, that all reported positive cases originated outside of the classroom, and infected individuals were successfully quarantined before others in the schools were infected.

“We don’t have a situation in a classroom where Student 1 was COVID positive and then Student 2, sitting nearby, then became COVID positive,” Robison said. “The best example of that nonspread is at the elementary level. Not that we haven’t had positives, but our kids have been in school for five full weeks of school, and we don’t have any evidence that elementary kids are in school communicating that to other elementary kids.”

The schedule change will still allow for students and parents to opt for remote learning. Robison said roughly 12 to 13 percent of ZCS students were enrolled in the distanced learning option at the beginning of the academic year.

With the move away from hybrid schedules, students would no longer be sequestered into cohorts, yet block scheduling would remain: Students would continue their green/silver schedule as planned.

Robison said should a surge in cases or some other event warrant, the district would return to hybrid or fully distanced learning.

Zionsville Middle School, pictured, and all other Zionsville seconday schools might move to a five-day-a-week, in-person schedule if current county COVID-19 metrics remain stable, ZCS Supt. Scott Robison said. (Photo by Jarred Meeks)

ZCS parent: Proposed plan a good idea

Indiana Senate Chief of Staff/General Council Jeff Papa, who has two daughters attending Zionsville Community High School and who is running to join the ZCS school board Nov. 3, said he agrees with the school district’s proposed plan to return to full-time, in-person classes.

“I have friends and acquaintances who are all over the place on this issue, (with some saying) ‘Nobody should be back’ (or) ‘Everybody should be back,’” Papa said. “Some are in the middle. I understand there are very different opinions on that. My observations (are), I think that it’s very important for them to be back in school for their mental health, for their development with their friends, for their learning. And that my not apply to every student.

“I can certainly understand parents have concerns, but I will say, watching from the state level – the various plans from the schools, the various actions taken, the various preparations – Zionsville has put in the most, or one of the most, concerted efforts to make sure everybody is safe and that they have a good time. They change it when it’s necessary.”

Papa has no concerns about his own children being in school every day.

“I’m very comfortable with them going back, at least at this time,” Papa said. “I think it’s a good idea, based on what we know now.”


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