Zionsville schools await health department guidance following county’s red designation, expects to continue hybrid schedule

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Zionsville Community Schools officials said they are confident the school district can safely continue to offer in-person classes in its hybrid schedule ahead of Boone County’s designation as a red county on the state’s color-coded COVID-19 advisory map, which indicates the highest level of community spread.

However, ZCS Supt. Scott Robison said during a Jan. 11 school board meeting that the school district will follow guidance issued by the Boone County Health Dept.

“We think they will let us do in person as long as we don’t have large in-school spread and there is no indication our operation hurts others in the county and there is no guidance from the state that would preclude us from moving forward,” Robison said during a Jan. 11 school board meeting.

BCHD officials were unavailable for comment county and it it is unclear whether the department will advise a change to the school district’s schedule following the color change announcement.

Robison said he corresponded with BCHD Administrator and Nursing and Vital Records Director Lisa Younts in the days prior to the Jan. 11 meeting.

In an email to Robison that Younts shared excerpts from during the meeting, Younts said the “number of positives and quarantines within your schools will definitely be considered when (the) BCHD provides recommendations regarding in-person/hybrid/virtual learning.”

Younts also said in the email the BCHD “(hopes) to keep kids in a hybrid model, if not all in-person, as long as it is safe to do so.”

Robison said Jan. 11 he was confident ZCS could still safely offer in-person classes under its hybrid schedule.

Under the schedule, ZCS students in grades 5 through 12 alternate between in-person and virtual classes each day. Students in kindergarten through fourth grade attend in-person classes under the schedule. Robison said it isn’t feasible to provide the same education to younger students virtually, making a hybrid schedule impractical. All students have the option to choose virtual learning only.

Robison said ZCS officials would be hesitant to make abrupt changes in scheduling without a recommendation from the BCHD because of the state’s requirement for counties to report metrics consistent with a new color designation for at least two consecutive weeks before being given a different designation.

“One thing that is a big decision consideration is that if we change our restrictions based on the color code, it looks like it is a minimum four-week consideration to do that,” Robison said during the meeting.

Robison said ZCS would be “lobbying to stay in school.”

“We know that our kids do better when they are in school,” Robison said. “We know that there are fewer issues with social and emotional health. But this is an artifact of the state’s restrictions that get set in place based on the colors, and we don’t want to be stuck in an all-virtual because we know our students, frankly, do less well across our student populations.”


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