State Superintendent talks return to school on Thursday

(photo supplied / Warsaw Community Schools)

INDIANAPOLIS — The coronavirus has made it more difficult on teachers, students, and staff at schools to figure out logistics, but State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick says everyone is doing the best they can.

McCormick spoke in a virtual news conference Thursday morning where questions from the media were emailed to her. She was asked about why some students are staying less than six feet apart.

“Initially, there was a lot of guidance that said it had to be six feet. Then, guidance came out from different entities that said 3-6 feet. So, we’re proceeding as if three feet is the minimum, but I have visited schools prior to them starting to see the setups. They are trying their hardest to get at least a minimum of three feet if not more,” says McCormick.

Making sure kids wear masks has also been an obstacle.

“The teachers are spending quite a bit of time reinforcing safe mask-wearing. It’s going to take time. I am hearing it takes a lot of time to reinforce how the mask should be worn as far as the nose covering and the face covering,” says McCormick.

McCormick says despite the early learning curve, kids have done an “amazing job adapting” to wearing masks.

Some staff members and students have tested positive for coronavirus already. McCormick was asked if there was a number or “threshold” of positive coronavirus numbers that would force a school to close or go virtual. McCormick says it’s up to the local school districts.

“Some of our districts have those now. Not everybody has those. They look at what makes up those positivity rates,” says McCormick.

There are schools that are either completely virtual or are using a hybrid model to return. McCormick was asked if schools have to take part in state testing if they are going virtual or using the hybrid model.

“We are struggling with that. If the families are like, ‘My child is not coming in. I don’t want my child around people,’ but then we’re saying ‘But they have to come in for the statewide test and be around all those kids.’ That’s where the rub is coming. For some of the tests, we would need a waiver. We would need state legislation to help us with that or Governor’s office to help us with that. Right now we have none of that. The feds aren’t willing to pull that card yet,” says McCormick.