Kokomo School Corporation will be going virtual starting Monday through Dec. 4 as COVID-19 has caused staffing shortages and in the hopes of curbing the spread of the virus following holiday gatherings.
According to a letter sent to Kokomo families by Superintendent Jeff Hauswald, positivity rates and absence rates among students and staff have led to staffing difficulties for transportation, food services, and teaching. The decision to close to in-person instruction was not one that was made lightly, Hauswald said.
"Kokomo School Corporation officials, like many of you, are disappointed anytime transitions to 'eLearning' are deemed necessary. We have worked diligently to keep our schools open, as we realize that in-person instruction has no equal substitute for many of our students," read the letter.
" ... Contrariwise, we realize that situations may arise where the consequences of staying open surpasses the pre-described benefits, including the increase of transmission (or spread) of COVID-19, safety risks associated with staff shortages, and increasing complexities with managing online learning and in-person learning, when the number of online learners is growing exponentially due to required absences associated with this pandemic."
The process for determining the move to eLearning was made at the district level based on student and staff positivity rates, staff and student absence rates, staff shortages, and whether classrooms can be staffed with substitute teachers.
Kokomo Schools worked with the Howard County Health Department, and Dr. Emily Backer, according to the letter, suggested the district close the week after Thanksgiving, though not required, in order to prevent further spread of the virus following holiday gatherings, get-togethers, and college students returning home.
"Kokomo School Corporation officials believe that this preventative measure to slow the spread the week after Thanksgiving will increase the likelihood that we can resume in-person instruction from December 7th through December 18th, as we conclude the first semester," read the letter.
While in-person instruction is not being offered, meals still are available to students. Meals can be picked up at Central Middle International School on Nov. 24 from 9 to 11 a.m., which will include 14 meals (for Nov. 24 to 25 and Nov. 30 to Dec. 4). Then, meals will be available on Jan. 5 from 9 to 11 a.m. and include eight meals (for Jan. 5 to 8).
In the letter, Hauswald encouraged the community to help prevent the spread of the virus.
"We IMPLORE you to assist us by limiting large gatherings, practicing social distancing, and by wearing a mask. We anxiously await the development of a vaccine, and other medical advances that are beginning to shed increased optimism for a return to 'normal' at some point in 2021. However, our local medical officials have warned us that the upcoming months could be very difficult, because of a strong likelihood of the continued spread of COVID-19 and the growing pressures on our hospitals and our medical community," read the letter.
Teachers will be working regular school hours to answer questions and provide student with lessons during all eLearning days.
In-person instruction is planned to resume on Dec. 7.