All county schools to go to e-learning next week

Friday, March 13, 2020 ~ Updated 5:34 PM

All Putnam County Schools will move to e-learning during the week of March 16-20 as local authorities attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 into the Putnam County community.

North Putnam, Cloverdale, South Putnam and Greencastle made independent announcements Friday afternoon that school buildings will be closed for the coming week and beyond.

The week of e-learning gives students a minimum of a two weeks out of school, as all four corporations are on spring break for the week of March 23-27.

Superintendent Jeff Hubble announced that Greencastle Schools will be closed for the additional week of March 30-April 3.

During the break, school officials will have the opportunity to determine how to deal with the pandemic during the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

“Corporation administration will monitor the coronavirus outbreak during the week of spring break, March 23-27, 2020 to determine if an additional response is necessary,” Cloverdale Superintendent Greg Linton wrote in an online message. “Parents are asked to monitor the corporation website for updates.”

In the meantime, school officials are encouraging students and families to take necessary precautions to keep themselves healthy.

“During this time, we encourage all students, staff and families to practice social distancing, stay home as much as possible and avoid large groups of people,” North Putnam Superintendent Nicole Singer stated in a letter to parents. “We have not yet made any decisions regarding events between spring break and the end of the school year. This situation is fluid.”

The question remains what happens next. In his letter to parents, Hubble listed the weeks before and after spring break as e-learning days, while listing the week of April 6-10 as to be determined.

These are the big questions now facing school officials as they grapple with the remaining nine or so weeks of school between spring break and the end of the school year.

One new consideration is the 20-day waiver of the required 180 days of instruction that Gov. Eric Holcomb granted to schools on Thursday. The waived days do not need to be used consecutively and can be leveraged as needed.

This means that as the state continues to grapple with the spread of the virus, schools could use up to four weeks of non-instructional days, in which neither e-learning nor in-person instruction would be required.

During the same announcement to the public on Thursday, the governor also limited non-essential gatherings to no more than 250 people.

While school may well be an “essential” gathering, utilizing e-learning as well as the waiver days gives schools a way to put such gatherings on hold for several weeks.

At this point, the efforts remain precautionary, as Putnam County still does not have a confirmed case of COVID-19. The most recent numbers indicate 12 positive tests in eight Indiana counties.

However, these numbers tend to lag behind, as the Indiana State Department of Health has only been announcing the updated numbers once daily, at 10 a.m. Additionally, only 73 people had been tested of the state’s nearly 6.7 million population.

A Friday report in the Indianapolis Star indicated that only a bit over 100 tests are available in the state.

Despite this and the continuing cancellations of schools and other gatherings and events, authorities are encouraging citizens not to panic and to continue taking relatively simple precautions when it comes to preventions, mainly hygienic and housekeeping issues, in addition to social distancing.

In keeping students at home, local schools are simply following a path being taken by school corporations around the state.

For many parents, though, the question now turns to what to do with their children if they cannot take time off work to care for them.

“This is an extremely challenging time for all of us,” Hubble said. “We appreciate your patience and continued support of our students as we work through these issues.”

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