North Central High School
PHOTO: WISH-TV

Back-to-School Recommendations Include Closing Cafeterias, Ordering Students With Symptoms to Stay Home

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana schools can reopen for the fall semester, with lengthy guidelines from the state for when they do.

The Indiana Department of Education says schools should plan on a full 180-day school year, but says school boards can decide to do some or all of it through e-learning. A 33-page list of recommendations suggests thinking about shorter or longer breaks in the semester.

Governor Holcomb says schools “can and should” reopen safely under the plan. Family and Social Services Secretary Jennifer Sullivan adds that as research increasingly suggests kids are less vulnerable to the virus, the risks of resuming school are outweighed by the mental health benefits of letting kids see each other again, and giving low-income students access to school lunches they may rely on.

The plan acknowledges schools probably don’t have the resources to conduct temperature screenings. But it recommends masks, and orders schools to follow up on the reasons for absences, and immediately report any coronavirus cases to the department and the county health department. Anyone with symptoms, even without a positive test, must stay home for 10 days, and at least three days after a fever breaks.

The guidelines urge schools to either close the cafeteria and playground, or stagger the times students are there — the department recommends boxed lunches in classrooms. It also urges schools to break up large classes like choir, band and gym, and hold class outside when possible. And it calls on schools to budget time during the school day for hand-washing and for disinfecting classrooms.

The plan discourages schools from giving out awards or incentives for attendance.

The department says students should have assigned seats, not only in class but on buses.

The guidelines advise school boards to budget conservatively, in recognition of the possibility of funding cuts. And the department says schools should think about families’ budgets too, and try to keep limits on lists of required supplies.

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