IPS Will Return to School in a Virtual Learning Environment

During their school reopening plan, IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson and other district leadership said they were ready to welcome students back the first week of August as initially planned. Less than one week later, on July 18th, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners voted at its annual retreat to delay the start of school for IPS schools for two weeks. The new start date for Indianapolis Public Schools students is Monday, August 17th.

IPS 100% Virtual Start

IPS planned to continue to offer both in-person learning and remote learning for the 30,000 students in the school district. The Full-Time Remote Learning Registration Form was reopened for families who would like to select the virtual/remote learning option for their student. However, on July 29th, as other local schools started in-person and remote options, the Indianapolis Public Schools administration announced that they will recommend to the IPS Board of School Commissioners to begin the 2020-2021 school year remotely. This new plan is for 100% remote learning for all district students starting on August 17th

This new plan was voted on and passed at the Board Action Session on Thursday, July 30th.

100% of IPS students will start school on August 17th by way of remote learning. This virtual learning environment will be in place until at least October 2nd. By this time, the hope is that COVID-19 cases in Marion County will be stabilized and decrease to a less dangerous level for all students and staff. IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson has said the district will remain flexible and respond to changing data, keeping the emphasis on the health and safety of the students and staff as the top priority.

Technology Availability for Students

In order for remote learning to be successful in the district, IPS is a 1:1 school district and technology will be distributed to all students. Students in grades Pre-K through 2nd will receive an iPad; grades 3-12 will receive a Chromebook. MiFi mobile hot spots will also be provided to families without internet access. More details on how students will obtain these will be released once plans are more finalized.

In addition to providing technology for students, distribution of meals will also be done. Plans for this system are forthcoming. 

For students who may struggle with remote learning, learning hubs will be implemented as a supplement.  These will be physical spaces where students can go to access their digital classwork, receive help, and receive the physical and mental interventions they cannot be accomplished virtually. These learning hubs will adhere to COVID-19 precautions, including social distancing and limited numbers. 

As this situation evolves and more details are revealed, this article will be updated to reflect that new information.

Katy Mann contributed to this article.

Previous article and information reported on July 18, 2020:

“As I’ve acknowledged all along, this is a fluid situation and we will remain flexible,” said IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson. “My job as superintendent is to look at all of the data from state and local health and government officials to make the best decision for our students and staff about the new school year.  The decision to delay the opening of school by two weeks gives our community more time to ensure we are turning the tide on the number of positive COVID-19 cases and confirm we are doing the right thing.”

Indianapolis Public Schools leadership indicated during their reopening call that they have more than adequate supplies and materials needed for sanitizing and keeping the schools clean, a concern that has plagued many local schools. IPS began ordering and stockpiling these items in May.

{Speculation} Other schools have indicated that 90% of their student population intended to return to campus, meaning they could not possibly social distance. With IPS reopening the remote learning option registration again, it could mean that they need more students to opt in to be able to move forward with any sort of socially distant in-person option.

IPS isn’t the only school district that has delayed their start date. Pike School District announced they would delay the start of school by one week and Center Grove also delayed their start by one day.

Other local schools have made changes to how their school year looks as well. Hamilton Southeastern Schools will return to school  100% virtual and one day later than planned, Washington Township Schools will also return to school in a virtual learning setting. Noblesville Schools adopted a full time in-person return to school but later changed their plans to a hybrid model for their high school, with 50% of students on campus each day. Carmel Schools also announced a hybrid plan for high school students.

The Indiana State Teachers Association met with the Governor earlier this month to share concerns and ask questions about the return to school for both students and teachers. As more and more of these questions are answered, we’ll likely see more and more changes to school reopening plans.

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