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Salem Schools will join with East Washington Schools and move to virtual education beginning Monday, Nov. 16 due to the increase in local Covid-19 cases and the county’s increased color designation being raised to “Orange”.

West Washington Schools are moving Grades 7-12 online beginning Monday but will keep Pre-K thru Grades 6 in-person at this time.

Thanksgiving break begins Nov. 25 and all Salem and East Washington are expected to return to in-person education on Monday, Nov. 30.

West Washington Schools said it would stay in virtual learning as long as the county was designated as “Orange” and would move all grades online if the county moves to “Red.”

Washington County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Morgan advised local administrators in a letter on Nov. 12 that all schools should move to a hybrid/virtual learning environment for middle and high school students. 

Morgan said Pre-K and Elementary classes could remain in-person while the county is listed in the Orange status. 

Morgan also advised all grades to move to virtual education if the county moves to the “Red” status. 

Salem and East Washington are moving all grades to virtual education.

Washington County moved to Orange for the first time on Wednesday (when the state updates this designation each week) and had previously been yellow. 

There are four stages – blue, yellow, orange and red. 

Orange status is given when there are between 100 and 199 new cases per 100,000 residents. 

Red status is given when there are more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents. 

There have been 93 cases of Covid-19 and 2 Deaths in Washington County since November 1 (5 total deaths overall and 526 total cases of Covid-19).

The county reported 13 cases in July to shot up to 148 cases reported in August. There were 47 cases in September and that more than doubled to 155 for October. 
 
According to Salem Schools Superintendent Jon Acton, “Salem and East Washington School Corporations are working together with the Washington County Health Department to slow the spread of COVID.”
 

“The decision has been made to move to a virtual schedule for grades 7-12 beginning Monday, Nov. 16,” said West Washington Superintendent Keith Nance. “We will continue to have physical instruction for grades Pre-K thru 6th at this time. We will continue this schedule if Washington County is ORANGE on the ISDH County Metric Map. Adjustments could be made to the elementary in-person instruction if contact tracing or Covid cases directly affect staff or students of WWES.”

Nance said WWSC will begin the following schedule on Monday 11/16/2020-

  • Pre-K thru Grade 6: Remain In-Person, unless we become Red or have issues with staffing, contact tracing or Covid-19 positive cases.
  • Grades 7-12: Return to Virtual beginning Monday 11/16/2020 as long as our county is ORANGE.
  • Nance said there would be no general fans at Indoor Athletic/Extracurricular Events.
“It is time that we not only do what is necessary at school but outside of school as well. Please consider your role in making the necessary changes to improve our current situation,” Nance said. “In addition to wearing a mask in group settings, proper sanitizing, and social distancing please consider what social activities are necessary and safe.”  
 
Acton said individual student course work would be posted by their teachers to Google Classrooms by 9a each morning. 
 
Online Lions programming will continue as scheduled. 
 
Prosser students will continue to follow the Prosser schedule, with transportation still being available for those Prosser students.
 
Acton said all Salem Middle School athletics were being postponed during the remote learning time.
 
“This means there will be no practices or games,” said Acton in a letter to parents that was sent home today. “Any other extracurricular activities outside of high school athletics will be postponed as well. The walking track at the high school will also be closed to the community.”

Morgan noted in a letter to schools that the new guidance was “to make stricter guidelines to help further ensure the safety of [the] students, staff and faculty.”

He said that during the “Orange” Status that no assemblies or large group activities would be allowed. 

Extra-curricular activities and any events with competitors/participants must have less than 50 people with a strong recommendation to have no in-person attendees.

According to the health department, there can be no more than 50 people total at an athletic event.  This does include all players, coaches, referees, any janitorial staff, and parents.  This is for the home and the away team for a combined total of no more than 50.  

Morgan wrote that administrators should “educate parents and guardians about limiting social events outside of schools and home. County education leaders will collaborate with the local health department to implement aggressive precautions in schools and communities.”

Morgan admitted his guidance was “stricter than the ISDH Orange guidelines set forth by the state and are enforceable per Indiana Codes IC 16-20-1-24, IC 36-8-2-4 and IC 36-8-25.”

Morgan also outlined that if Washington County moves to the “Red” status, all three county schools will be closed to in-person education.

“All extracurricular activities would be canceled,” Morgan wrote. “This is a stricter mandate than what ISDH has put out but is in the best health interest of our community.”

He did indicate that all information was subject to change at any time, as it has throughout this pandemic, and that the administrators at the county schools would be notified immediately of those changes. 

Acton said the schools were working with Morgan to monitor the situation and the positivity rate of the county.

“The positivity rate will determine how we will return to instruction on Nov. 30,” said Acton. “We will know more by Nov. 25th and will update the community on that date.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb ended Stage 5 of Indiana’s Back on Track program but didn’t replace it with anything.

Instead he state issued additional advice for counties in Orange and Red counties as follows:

COUNTIES IN ORANGE 

  • Social gatherings –inside or outside — are limited to 50 people 
  • Special, seasonal or commercial events planned for more than 50 people need to get a safety plan approved by the local health department
  • Attendance at winter indoor K-12 extracurricular and co-curricular events are limited to 25% capacity 
  • Capacity in common areas and break rooms should be reduced and users should be socially distanced
  • Community rec sports leagues and tournaments may continue with limited participant attendance, with required personnel and parents/guardians only 

 

COUNTIES IN RED

  • Social gatherings — inside or outside — are limited to 25 people 
  • Special, seasonal or commercial events planned for more than 25 people need to get a safety plan approved by the local health department. Events are not advised to be held. College and professional sports are included. 
  • Attendance at winter indoor extracurricular and co-curricular activities, including IHSAA sports, is limited to participants, support personnel and parents/guardians 
  • Local officials may consider liming hours for the operations of bars, nightclubs and restaurants 
  • Community recreational sports leagues and tournaments may continue with participants, required personnel and parents/guardians only 
  • Senior care activities suspended 
  • Hospital, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings may impose visitation limits 
  • Common areas and break rooms should be closed 

However the state left any additional restrictions up to each county’s Heath department.