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Indiana Unveils Recommendations For Schools To Reopen, But Not How They'll Afford It

Jeanie Lindsay
IPB News

Hoosier schools can begin to reopen their doors starting July 1 after being closed for months because of COVID-19. The state released a new set of guidelines Friday for schools to consider as they bring people back to campuses. 

The guidance recommends schools screen staff and students for COVID symptoms, and that people in schools wear masks. It says schools will likely need to provide masks to staff and students and follow social distancing rules. State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box says how schools follow the guidance is a local decision. 

"Our superintendents, our principals, our teachers, in conjunction with their local health departments, are the individuals that really need to make this decision about their community and for their community," Box says.

Following the guidelines' release, the Indiana State Teachers Association said in a statement that schools should not bear the financial burden of implementing the recommendations. 

"In order to safely re-open, significant costs will be passed on to local public schools," the statement reads. "The governor must ensure that there are no cuts to K-12 education. Our students and staff should not pay the price during this crisis."

It's unclear how much financial assistance the state will offer schools to help them follow the guidance, outside of limited federal emergency CARES Act funding. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb was asked about how he would ensure schools could afford to follow the recommendations during Friday's news briefing. He didn't answer the question, but also pointed to the fact that schools can choose how they follow the guidelines. 

"They are recommendations. They are guardrails that we put into place and if it's someone, a school, that chooses a hybrid approach, an e-learning and an in-school, both options, so be it," he says.

The document says schools should maintain social distancing, and offers options for them to consider to limit the movement and face-to-face interactions of students, including changing the length and timing of school breaks, classroom layouts and busing procedures. 

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick plans to speak with school leaders directly about the guidance during a webinar next week.