Indiana officials release additional guidance for schools ahead of a return to classroom instruction

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Indiana officials provide schools with additional health and safety guidelines ahead of the upcoming school year.

During his weekly update on the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Eric Holcomb stressed the importance of a return to school for students this fall.

“I know educators and students alike are eager to get back at it, to see one another, we remembered how they were physically separated just months ago,” Holcomb said.

While schools make re-entry plans that fit their community, this week, state leaders also released new guidance for schools to consider.

This includes the following measures:

  • Space desks as far as possible facing in the same direction
  • Cohort younger students into pods
  • Hand washing and disinfecting
  • Plan schedules so that a minimum number of students are close contacts
  • Do not conduct birthday parties or other events that put students in close contact
  • Isolate and send home any person who develops symptoms

“It goes without saying, there are many ongoing challenges confronting our state’s COVID response, one of the most important is continuing to provide a high quality education to our more than one million children,” said Jennifer Sullivan, Indiana FSSA secretary.

This week officials announced guidelines for contact tracing in schools, and what should happen when a student or adult test positive.

This guidance includes the following:

  • In a classroom, identify who spent more than 15 minutes within 6 feet of the person for the 48 hours prior to symptoms or a positive test (for an asymptomatic person)
    • Close contacts will be asked to quarantine at home for 14 days and will be monitored and guided by local and state health officials.
    • If any close contact test positive, the process begins again
    • If cohorting and assigned seats has not been made possible, an entire classroom may need to quarantine
  • If more than one student tests positive in a classroom, the entire classroom should quarantine for 14 days
  • No threshold has been set if an entire school should close
  • Siblings of a positive case should quarantine if they are considered a close contact

Officials say a similar approach was used in child care settings during the pandemic, yielding positive results.

“Only 16 of 4,000 Indiana child cares are closed due to a teacher or child with COVID,” Sullivan said.

With the start of school just around the corner, Sullivan says the community must do their part to help keep school in session.

“Indiana flattened the curve for healthcare and now we must flatten it for kids,” Sullivan said.

As some school districts have delayed their return this fall, Holcomb says he will not set a statewide start date.

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