INDIANAPOLIS — The Perry Township Schools board of education met Thursday to announce what parents and students can expect upon returning to school in the age of COVID-19.
"We have had a lot of different resources to come up with a plan to remain safe and open our schools back up for our kids," Superintendent Patrick Mapes said.
The public could watch the meeting online, a sign of the times.
"We are not anxious at all," said Erin Sinders, mother of Noah, 6 and Isiah, 7.
"There was no doubt in our minds that we were going to send them back. E-learning did not work very well for us," she said, referring to last semester when schools closed because of the pandemic.
E-learning will still be an option for students when the new school year kicks off July 29, but the district has a plan for students who return to classrooms.
"We’ve taken all the same steps that every other school corporation across the state is taking right now," Mapes said.
The district previously required only students in sixth through 12th grades to wear masks. Students in fifth grade and younger were encouraged to wear masks, but it wasn't mandatory. On July 13, the school board voted to change that.
All students, from Pre-K through 12th grade, will be required to wear face masks in designated areas where social distancing is not possible. That includes spaces like in hallways, on school buses and in cafeteria serving lines.
"It’s going to be awful hard for a preschooler, kindergartner, first-grader, to manage a mask themselves in a classroom setting," Mapes said.
Sinders agrees. Her boys have worn masks when they go out, but wearing one in school all day could be a different story.
"They do OK. I don’t know how they’ll do all day with them," she said.
Beyond masks, the district will have increased cleaning in its buildings, with frequently-touched areas sanitized daily. Students will be socially-distanced as much as possible. Hand sanitizer will be on hand in every classroom and common area, as well as disinfectant.
The district is asking parents to drop their kids off at school rather than using buses, if possible. On the bus, drivers and students will have to wear a mask. Students will be assigned a seat.
Buses will be disinfected after each route.
"I think it’s going to be a mess, in terms of transportation,” Sinders said. She already drops her kids off at school and understands the district asking others to do so.
"The lines for pick up and drop off are going to be ridiculous," Sinders said. "It’s going to cause traffic issues."
When it comes to not feeling well, the message is pretty clear. The district says kids with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher or other symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home.
"We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to stress about this. We’re going to be providing academic programming for our students, whether in person or from home," Mapes said.
District officials know even as the plan is released, it could change at any time, depending on what happens with the virus.
Sinders said she and her husband can handle it and so can the kids.
"Kids are resilient. They can adapt," she said.
District officials say each building in the school district will announce individualized plans next week.