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Early COVID-19 Disruptions Prompt Concerns About The Future Of This School Year

FILE PHOTO: Zach Herndon

An entire school district in southern Indiana has gone virtual until later this month because of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. It's one of several areas experiencing disruptions caused by COVID-19 cases found in schools as a new academic year begins. 

Scott County School District 1 went virtual just one week into the new school year, citing an explosive outbreak of COVID-19 cases among students. 

Superintendent Trevor Jones said about 2 percent of the total student population tested positive, forcing a little more than 40 percent of the district's entire student population to quarantine. 

"To give you an idea: we have a little over 300 kids in our middle school, and 130 were in quarantine," he said. 

At the elementary school, he said, they had more cases in the first week than they did all of last school year. 

According to Jones, students will remain virtual until Aug. 23, when many students who were subjected to quarantine will be allowed to return to classrooms. He says seeing this many cases this early is disappointing – and alarming. 

"It's very disheartening, very disappointing – this thing seems to never go away. I mean this is our third school year that we're dealing with this," Jones said. "You know, this summer we thought we had turned a corner, and obviously we had not."

The district is providing meals and Wi-Fi devices to students who need them while they learn remotely. Jones said most students will use digital devices provided by the school to complete coursework, but the district's youngest learners will use paper packets. 

READ MORE: How Is Indiana Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

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Other schools around the state are facing similar challenges, with some canceling extracurricular activities and sending entire classrooms of children home as COVID-19 outbreaks force students to quarantine. 

Jones said district leaders are looking at changing safety measures – including mask policies – to hopefully limit future disruptions. But he says, with an outbreak this big this soon, he worries what the rest of the school year could look like.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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