Indiana shuts down schools for the rest of academic year

Indiana has closed public schools for the rest of the academic year, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick announced Thursday afternoon.

The closure means students will have to finish the school year from their homes through remote learning, such as virtual classrooms, online assignments or paper packets.

State schools had previously been closed through May 1 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The statewide closure began March 20.

The closure affects 1.3 million students enrolled in K-12 education across the state.

The directive was largely expected after Gov. Eric Holcomb said two weeks ago it would be “a miracle” for students to return to classrooms this year.

More than 3,000 Hoosiers have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, and 78 people have died.

“We can’t return. We can’t deny the facts of the world we live in today, right now,” Holcomb said during his daily press conference to provide updates on the state’s plans during the pandemic. “The last thing we want to do is kid ourselves about our kids’ health and safety.”

Holcomb last month waived 20 of the required 180 days that schools must meet for instruction, requiring only 160 this year. McCormick said Thursday that schools that have not already met 160 days, including remote learning, will be required to hold at least 20 additional remote instructional days between now and the end of the school year.

What those instructional days look like will be up to individual school systems. Districts have until April 17 to file a continuous learning plan with the state that details how they’re educating students through the remainder of the year.

McCormick thanked educators, parents and students for doing their best to adjust to their new reality.

“It’s going to take a collective effort to save lives, and schools must do their part,” she said.

“Our goal given this very difficult situation is to ensure that students have some type of continuous learning,” she said. “It may not all be e-learning. We’re hopeful we can offer some type of continuous learning to all of our kids.”

McCormick said 75% of the school year had already been completed. She said seniors enrolled in second-semester classes would get credits for those classes, even if they’re unable to finish them. Required graduation exams will be waived.

The governor, in conjunction with McCormick, said they directed the Indiana State Board of Education to provide flexibility for school corporations for students who are to graduate in 2020.

They said a school corporation may issue an Indiana diploma to a student who has done all of the following:

  • Met all of the course and credit requirements for the specific diploma designation based on a combination of high school credits earned prior to and the course in which a student was enrolled as of March 19, when the governor issued the statewide school closure;
  • Meets any virtual or remote learning participation requirements established by the governing body of the local school corporation in response to the statewide school closure order issued by the governor;
  • Meets any additional graduation requirements established by the governing body of the local school corporation prior to the school closure order issued by the governor.

The executive order also extends teacher licenses expiring between March 1 and Aug. 31 to Sept. 1.

On Twitter, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said she fully supports the state’s decision to keep schools closed the rest of the school year.

“We’ll continue working to serve our students and families well,” she said. “This is sobering news, but we will push forward together.”

IPS told parents to stay tuned for a learning plan coming soon.

Hamilton Southeastern Schools sent parents a note briefly acknowledging that students won’t return to school this year. Spokeswoman Emily Pace Abbots said more info is expected to go out to parents Friday.

The district’s superintendent, Allen Bourff, has been recording a video with updates for families each Friday and posting them to the district’s website.

MSD of Pike Township Superintendent Flora Reichanadter said on Twitter that school leaders learned about the extended closure at the same time families did and that further instructions for families will be released after spring break, which ends this week.

The district has already established a remote learning schedule for the month of April, beginning Wednesday.

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