INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's largest school system is bringing tens of thousands of children back to their classrooms. The phased reopening begins in less than three weeks. Administrators said it's now safer but not entirely risk-free for kids.
No one factor convinced IPS administrators to reopen schools. But the slowing spread of COVID-19, the county's positivity rate declining to 5 percent, was a major consideration, according to Superintendent Aleesia Johnson.
"It is not risk-free, but I do believe it is inherently more safe now because of our community spread had decreased," she said.
The return to classes will be phased in beginning with the youngest students.
Pre-kindergarten through third-graders arrive on Oct. 5.
All students will return to class the week of Oct. 19.
Sixth through 12th graders will have a hybrid schedule. Students will be in class two days a week and learn online the other three.
IPS opened a month ago with teachers leading virtual classes.
The results are mixed. Some students had trouble connecting to the system.
Some teachers struggled to keep kids engaged and completing their assignments.
Four weeks into the school year, attendance is still below 80 percent.
More than one in 10 families haven't even picked up their students' laptops.
"We know in some of the families and communities we are serving there are a lot of challenges," Johnson said.
Administrators suspect many of the students have moved out of the district.
"But it is also to be sure we are reaching out and finding and connecting with all the students we have been expecting to be servicing," she said.
Before school began in August, about a third of families said they preferred virtual learning.
IPS is still offering parents the option of sending their children to school or keeping them learning at home.