IDOE Announces 2020-2021 School Year COVID-19 Reentry Considerations

IN-CLASS aims to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 when students return to school.

(Indianapolis, Ind.) - As schools across Indiana begin to prep for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, the Indiana Department of Education has released COVID-19 reentry considerations to provide guidance for preparing school operations during the current pandemic. 

Indiana’s Considerations for Learning and Safe Schools (IN-CLASS) was developed by practitioners and professional organizations, including the Governor’s office, the Indiana State Department of Health, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, the Indiana High School Athletic Association, and IDOE’s Reentry Advisory Group.

“The health and safety of Hoosier students, school staff, and communities is priority one. Providing students with a quality education is critical and therefore it is crucial we offer considerations focused on getting students back in the classroom in a safe manner,” said State Superintendent Dr. Jennifer McCormick. “Considering the many unknowns associated with COVID-19, we also recognize the importance of alternative learning opportunities. We appreciate the thoughtful and collaborative spirit in which IN-CLASS was developed.”

The 38-page document outlines health protocols and social distancing in the school, extra-curricular activities and sports, as well as the Indiana State Department of Health Mitigation Strategy. 

An executive order signed by Governor Holcomb will allow schools to reopen on July 1. This health and safety re-entry guidance will assist local school boards, superintendents and administrative teams to make decisions to keep those entering the building safe. 

IN-CLASS will continue to evolve as the knowledge surrounding COVID-19 changes. 

HEALTH PROTOCOL FOR SCHOOLS 

To ensure health and safety, IN-CLASS encourages both student s and employees to be trained to recognize COVID-19 related symptoms. 

If a student of employee is excluded from the school environment for COVID-19 related symptoms or positive test, the individual must meet the CDC guidelines to re-enter. 

When it comes to screening those entering the building, the CDC guidelines recommend self-screening, school-based screening, and/or medical inquiries. The type and extent of screening will be up to the discretion to each school district.

Typically, federal law limits medical inquiries that can be made; however, with the nature of the pandemic, leeway has been given to make additional inquires that would otherwise not be allowed. 

Wearing masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for both students and employees will be consistent with CDC guidelines. While the current CDC guidelines recommend that all employees and students wear cloth face coverings, they will not be required. 

Each school is encouraged to provide a room or space separate from the nurse's office where those feeling ill with COVID-19 symptoms can be evaluated. A record should be kept of everyone that enters this space. This room or space will require strict protocols including social distancing, disinfecting, and wearing PPE.

If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, the school must contact the local health department immediately, and take the proper precautions to ensure the safety of everyone that may have come into contact with the infected individual. 

SOCIAL DISTANCING IN THE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT 

Some of the main recommendations that school districts are seeing include increasing social distancing while maintaining face-to-face instruction.  

It is recommended that schools review optional educational programming for alternatives while meeting the need of the students:

  • Schedule specified groups of students to attend in-person school on alternate days or half days to minimize the number of students in the building. Those students not attending in-person should be expected to engage in remote/continuous learning.
  • Consider year-round schooling with alternating breaks to minimize the numbers of students in the building at any time. 
  • Provide in-person instruction to elementary students and increase distance learning opportunities for secondary grade levels. 
  • Offer both in-person and remote instruction based on student need and parent concerns.

Course sizes, structure, and classrooms to decrease infection should:

  • Ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff as much as possible. 
  • Close communal use spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds if possible. Otherwise, stagger use and disinfect in between use. 
  • Reorganize P.E., choir, band, orchestra, and other large classes to allow for smaller classes, social distancing, and other precautions. 
  • Eliminate or reorganize assemblies, field trips, registrations, orientations, round-ups, and other large gatherings to allow for social distancing. 
  • Alternate recess to minimize the number of students on the playground, encourage social distancing, and allow time to disinfect equipment between uses. 
  • Increase space between students during in-person instruction. 
  • Move classes outdoors whenever possible. 
  • Rearrange desks to increase space between students. 
  • Face desks in the same direction. 
  • Require students to remain seated in the classroom and assign seats. 
  • Eliminate activities that combine classes or grade levels. 
  • Eliminate or minimize whole staff gatherings/meetings.
  • Eliminate or minimize students traveling to different buildings to receive services. 
  • Eliminate or minimize employees traveling between buildings. 
  • Consider broadcasting in-class instruction to multiple locations to allow students to spread out and/or learn from home. 
  • Consider a homeroom stay-in-place system where teachers rotate, as opposed to the students changing classrooms. 
  • Limit or eliminate classroom visitors. 
  • Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high touch materials to the extent possible (art supplies, equipment, etc. assigned to a single child) or limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of children at a time and clean and disinfect between uses. 
  • Avoid or minimize the sharing of electronic devices, toys, books, art supplies, and other games or learning aids when possible. 
  • Discourage the use of attendance awards or perfect attendance incentives for students.

Additional social distancing measures would include:

  • Review nutrition service procedures to minimize exposure
  • Implement measures to decrease students and employees congregating in one location
  • Take measures so no persons exposed can be more easily traced by the health department
  • Minimize or eliminate the need for people to be in the building other than necessary students

SPECIAL EDUCATION OVERVIEW

Districts and schools are encouraged to develop strong communication plans with parents to discuss the options for delivery methods of instruction for students with disabilities. 

An appropriate platform for delivery of special education-related services must be identified for each student. 

Every school must ensure that adequate staffing is available to continue to meet the needs of all students with IEPs within the district. 

Medically fragile students must be provided with remote educational services.

STUDENT TRANSPORTATION CONSIDERATIONS 

While the school bus is often the student's first contact with school in the morning and the last in the afternoon, districts must pay particular attention to protocols used in student transportation. 

These protocols include preparations and cleaning, modifications considerations for school and extracurricular transportation situations, and training. 

ISDH MITIGATION STRATEGY RECOMMENDATIONS

Districts and schools are encouraged to work with their local health departments to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

All schools are encouraged to use the CDC's Interim guidance for Administrators of US K-12 and child care programs to plan, prepare and respond to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

 

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