By J.D. Davidson
As COVID-19 cases surge across Indiana and the country, the Indiana State Teachers Association wants all Hoosier schools in red counties to move to a hybrid model at the least.
In a statement, ISTA President Keith Gambill said educators cannot continue to be put at risk.
“Indiana is experiencing an unprecedented increase of COVID-19 cases across counties, communities and public schools. The state has reported a total of nearly 12,000 cases of COVID in our schools. Just last week, more than 3,300 new cases were reported,” Gambill said. “And since not all districts are reporting, those numbers are much likely higher. We simply cannot continue to put educators and Hoosier families at risk.”
Growing cases have created a shortage of teachers and substitutes across the state. While learning options remain a local decision, some schools have ended in-person learning, and others continue to have students in classrooms.
“Because of overwhelming staff shortages, we’re seeing teachers and staff being brought back to buildings without completing CDC recommended 14-day quarantine period,” Gambill said. “We have teachers who are not just covering classes that have no teachers, but also filling in front office duties. If your county is red, ISTA recommends districts move immediately to virtual learning for all students.”
In Shelby County, south of Indianapolis, the Shelby County Health Department issued a memo that reiterated the state health department’s recommendation that students remain in schools.
“The data shows that schools are the safest place for children to be and they are getting infected outside of school and not while participating in in-person learning,” the memo said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, would agree.
On Sunday, Fauci said that bars should be closed as a way to help localities reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections, allowing children to safely return to their classrooms.
In an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Fauci said children aren’t major spreaders of the disease and are better off in school.
“Close the bars and keep the schools open,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. “Obviously, you don’t have one size fits all. But as I said in the past, the default position should be to try as best as possible within reason to keep the children in school, or to get them back to school.”
The local health department also pointed to state guidelines if school staffing numbers fall to allow employees who have been exposed to someone who tests positive to continue to be at school as long as they are asymptomatic.
“While we believe in-person instruction for students is best under normal circumstances, these aren’t normal circumstances. The lack of consistency within and across school districts is causing serious instability for students and educators alike,” Gambill said. “We simply cannot continue to put them and their families’ lives at risk. Taking stronger action now might mean we can avoid longer term disruptions in the winter and spring. We can and must do better.”
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.