School Boards Meeting This Week to Make a Way Back to Class

School Boards Meeting This Week to Make a Way Back to Class

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Both Salem and West Washington Schools are meeting this week to approve plans to get students back into the classroom after moving to a virtual atmosphere last week due to an increase in the number of absences due to Covid-19.

West Washington’s board voted to move to virtual classes on Tuesday, Aug. 24, and return to school on Sept. 7.

Salem Schools administration announced last Wednesday that students would move to virtual classes on Thursday, Aug. 25, and return on Sept. 6. 

Salem’s School Board is meeting tonight at 6:30p at the Salem High School Presentation Room. 

West Washington’s board will meet Wednesday, Sept 1 at 7p. 

East Washington Elementary School will be moved to a virtual format on Tuesday, August 31. They are expected to return to school on Sept. 7. 

Indiana schools set a new record last week, reporting more new cases of COVID-19 among Hoosier students than at any previous time in the 19 months of the pandemic.

More than 5,500 new cases were reported among students in Monday’s update of the state’s COVID-19 school dashboard.

The dashboard also reported 257 new cases among teachers and 355 new cases among other school staff members.

While nearly 1,000 of those cases date back to earlier weeks, last week’s total was still far greater than any week in the pandemic thus far, providing further evidence that the virus is now spreading in schools to a greater degree than it did during last school year when more stringent mitigation procedures were in place. 

Last Monday, more than 1,300 new cases were reported among K-12 students — the highest one-day total schools have reported since the state started asking schools to report the information more than a year ago. 

Since August 1, there have been 388 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Washington County and 5 new deaths. 

In July, there were 89 new Covid-19 cases in Washington County, with most of those coming in the last two weeks of the month. 

Last year, Washington County had 13 cases of Covid in the whole month of July 2020 and that increased to 148 cases when school began in August, with those figures rising to 432 in November, 572 in December and 485 in January 2021. 

According to East Washington Superintendent Dennis Stockdale, the school had an absentee rate last week of 8 percent. 

However, according to the Indiana State Board of Health’s website, West Washington High School reports 13 students with Covid and the elementary school reports less than 5. 

At Salem Schools, the high school shows 7 students with Covid and less than 5 at Bradie Shrum and Salem Middle School. 

According to the State of Indiana’s Department of Education, anytime there is a 20 percent or more absentee rate at any school in a corporation, the IDOE, and local health departments have to be notified and the school has to close until the absentee rate improves below 20 percent. 

STATE REGULATIONS

According to 512 IAC 1-2-1, public and accredited nonpublic schools are required to develop a local attendance system for reporting symptoms and health outbreaks. The school nurse is required to report any known or suspected reason for the excessive rate of absenteeism directly to the superintendent or designated administrator. 

Per 512 IAC 1-2-2, public and accredited nonpublic schools are required to report to the local health department and the state attendance officer the percentage of student absences when the percentage of students absent from a school is equal to or greater than 20% of the enrolled students. Reports are not required on days immediately before or after a school vacation day or a scheduled instructional day that is canceled due to any weather-related emergency. Schools are to complete this report on any individual school that reaches the 20% absenteeism threshold and is not dependent on the entire school corporation reaching this threshold. 

The rule also states that if students are quarantined, are not ill, and are able to attend school virtually or by distance learning, they would be counted as Virtual Due to COVID, which means they are present.

These students are not included in calculating a school’s absentee rate.

Only those students who are ill and are physically unable to attend school either in person or virtually would be counted as absent. 

ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES: 

  • The 20% rate is calculated and reported per individual school, not per school corporation. 
  • The 20% absenteeism rule is for reporting purposes only. 
  • There is not a certain percentage that dictates a school’s response, such as automatic school closure. Once a school reaches the 20% absenteeism rate and has reported this information to both the LHD and IDOE, the school and LHD should collaborate on the next steps depending upon the type of illness causing the absenteeism.