The West Washington School Board voted 6-1 at a special meeting this evening to move all classes online beginning Tuesday, August 24 thru Sept. 7 to curb the increasing numbers of students who have tested positive with Covid-19.
Board member Carrie Cambron voted against the decision.
The move comes less than three weeks since the start of the school year, which has seen the number of Covid cases grow “exponentially,” according to Superintendent Keith Nance.
The move will also put a halt to extracurricular activities including football until at least Sept. 7 – which takes this week’s Clarksville game off the schedule and their first conference matchup with PLAC opponent Mitchell on Sept. 3.
Nance said the schools will begin working on a plan right away to return to school in a safe manner.
The school’s original plan posted in July showed that West Washington would not require students to wear a mask except for on the school bus which has been recommended by the CDC. Since then, the school has asked students to wear masks at school, but there has been no statewide or local mandate to enforce that.
By the first of August, most Indiana counties began seeing an increase in Covid cases, which mirrors August 2020 when the start of school saw an increase in cases around the country.
More than 3,500 students in Indiana tested positive for COVID-19 last week, the Indiana Department of Health reported earlier today.
The department reported 3,504 new student positive cases as of last Friday.
Health officials update the dashboard weekly on Mondays at noon.
According to the Indiana State Health Department, there are less than 5 students that tested positive with Covid-19 at the elementary school and 13 at the Jr. and Sr. High School.
Nance said that number has doubled and will be reported to the state on Tuesday.
“The numbers over the course of the last seven days – and specifically over the weekend – and today…the number of Covid cases have grown exponentially,” Nance said.
“We have a high number of absenteeism and a high number of Covid cases,” said Nance. “It is my recommendation that we go to a virtual schedule beginning tomorrow and returning on September 7. During that time we would expect staff to report to have virtual instruction ready and follow the school schedule. We expect classes to proceed daily. We will also offer grab-and-go food for pickup at the school.”
Nance said in the meantime the school will work to formulate a plan to return and what mitigation strategies would be used.
“We’re already in touch with East Washington and Salem Schools to come up with a plan that we can hopefully agree on universally that would not only impact not just our own individual schools but the community as a whole here in Washington County,” said Nance.
Nance also said that due to the number of covid cases and contact tracing that goes beyond the classroom that goes into the extracurricular programs, the school will be suspending those programs during those days as well.
“We will look to a plan to return once we’re back in school in person,” he said.
Nance said the decision was not something that was an easy thing to recommend.
“This was not something we wanted to see happen. It’s kind of like reliving a bad dream,” he said. “We’re hoping to put a stop to this and get back on the right track. I think the best way to do that is to put a halt to in-person instruction until Sept. 7”
The board posted they would meet in executive session earlier today and originally indicated the executive session would be held from 6p to 6:30p but remained inside their meeting room until after 7:15p when they opened to the public.
The public session was less than five minutes long.