Wayne County Public Schools Resume Full-Time In-Person Classes in Fall


RICHMOND, Ind. – All Wayne County public schools will return to full-time in-person classes this fall with no virtual learning option.

The move comes after a meeting between the Wayne County Health Department and county superintendents on July 8, in which the parties discussed new recommendations regarding vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff, particularly with masking, contact tracing and quarantine requirements.

Each school district has developed or is actively working on its return to in-person learning plan, which will detail specific rules for the 2021-2022 school year. The health department, however, recommends to all schools that vaccinated students should not be subjected to contact tracing or quarantines, and that masks be optional for everyone, regardless of their immunization status.

However, students must be masked on buses, per the Centers for Disease Control’s requirement for masks on public transportation.

“We want to be as normal as possible,” said Nettle Creek Schools Superintendent Kyle Barrentine. “I think if we’ve learned anything from the last year, our kids need to be in school regularly and in as normal a setting as we can create and provide for them, while making sure everyone is sure.”

Richmond Community Schools (full school year) and Northeastern Wayne Schools secondary level buildings (two brief implementations) were the only districts that used a blended learning program during the pandemic-ridden 2020-21 school year , but every superintendent had questions on how to operate this next fall.

RELATED: Richmond Schools Publish Details of In-Person Return to Learning Plan

The recommendation to fully return in person came as no surprise, but the main topic of interest for Centerville-Abington Superintendent of Schools, Mike McCoy, was mask requirements. He cited this as the most frequently asked question of his administration by members of the community over the past few months, and he noted that “it is very difficult to manage this wherever you go, the number of people carrying masks was close to zero “.

While masks are not required, even for unvaccinated students and staff, they are still recommended, as are social distancing and general precautionary practices. County superintendents said policing the mask rules would be a difficult task with restrictions lifted elsewhere outside of school buildings, as did the enforcement of other rules and restrictions for a school population with different immunization statuses. .

“Just as we encourage our communities to trust us to make education decisions, we educators trust these professionals in their respective fields to make the decisions and come to particular conclusions to provide us with the guidance. that we need to keep everyone safe, ”said RCS Superintendent Curtis Wright.

Back to school (in person)

Local superintendents also shared a desire to make the next school year as normal as possible while maintaining safety, especially with teaching and learning methods for teachers and students.

A parent drops children off at Charles Elementary School on August 12, 2020, for the first day of school.  With only in-person classes and no mask requirements in Wayne County school districts for the 2021-22 school year, going back to school this fall will be quite different.

Virtual learning options were offered in all school districts across the county last year, and the decision not to have this comeback was in large part because of the strain on teachers and diminished learning outcomes. for the students. They all agreed that face-to-face learning is the strength of their school and that returning to this method was a major goal.

The virtual learning options previously offered to students with medical and other conditions will not change, however.

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“It wasn’t the biggest achievement in education history for us,” said Matthew Hicks, superintendent of Northeast Wayne Schools. “We are truly a school district that focuses on in-person teaching.… The more we can get it in person, the better the results.”

According to Return plan in person published by RCS, which uses the WCHD recommendations for close contact cases and quarantine schedules for students and unvaccinated staff, vaccinated staff and students will not have to quarantine if identified as a contact narrow as long as they remain asymptomatic and can verify proof of vaccination.

A staff member from Charles Elementary School welcomes students again on August 12, 2020, for the first day of school.  With only in-person classes and no mask requirements in Wayne County school districts for the 2021-22 school year, going back to school this fall will be quite different.

Close unvaccinated contacts should be quarantined, but asymptomatic close contacts may return after eight days with negative tests and specific precautions, after 11 days with precautions, or after 15 days without tests or precautions.

Depending on the plan, a “close contact” situation may differ: “If all students are masked and face forward in the classroom, only individuals within 3 feet of a person diagnosed with COVID- 19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period. If all students are not masked and facing forward in the classroom, all individuals within 6 feet of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a period of 24 hours.

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The plan does not mention how a student in quarantine will be educated from his home.

“The benefit of being vaccinated is pretty clear. It’s like playing the game of life; if you get to this square, you get to the end, and if you get to this square, you slide to the start.” , Hicks said. “Unvaccinated students and staff should follow the same quarantine and close contact rules we have been following since the start of last school year.”

Back to school plans are still subject to change

Superintendents also noted that their return to plans in person is “fluid” and is subject to change if and when new information or recommendations become available. Barrentine said each district will need to update its plan in six months.

But they were also satisfied with the support and cooperation of the Ministry of Health, happy to have more concrete information to provide to community stakeholders.

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“Communication, grace and flexibility: these are kind of our three tenants for this whole thing,” Barrentine said. “At the end of the day, I am very happy with the direction we are heading and hope that I am heading for a normal 2021-2022.”

“Things may change tomorrow,” Wright said. “But going back to training in person is exciting.”

“We think it’s a reasonable transition from where we were to where we hope to be,” Hicks said. “I think we are delighted to be able to offer the option… to choose not to wear a mask if they wish.”

“There’s always this worry in my head that we’re going to have a peak,” McCoy said. “But it’s exciting to see the number of people who have been vaccinated.”

Gus Martin is the sports and educational journalist for the Palladium-Item. Follow him on Twitter @GusMartin_PI and contact him at [email protected] or 765-729-4742.

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