Governor orders schools closed until May 1


One week into schools across the state closing their doors to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the doors will stay closed a month longer than first planned.

Holcomb issued an executive order on Thursday closing all public and private schools until May 1.

“As we get near to May 1, we may have to close permanently,” Holcomb said during a press conference on Thursday where he announced the closure. “But we’ll make that call down the road.”

Local educators responded quickly to Holcomb’s announcement. By the end of the day, the four Dubois County school corporations — Greater Jasper, Northeast Dubois, Southeast Dubois and Southwest Dubois — had a plan in place for continuing e-learning through April while students are home.

Under the plan, e-learning will take place each week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Mondays and Fridays will be teacher planning days. Families without internet connection or other issues should contact their children’s teachers for alternative assignments.

After the Southwest Dubois School Board meeting on Thursday, Superintendent Tim LaGrange said that while superintendents know three days of e-learning is not as impactful as five days of face-to-face learning, it will keep instruction happening.

“Kids can learn in this format,” he said. “And it’s the best we can do at this time.”

Southwest Dubois School Board Vice President John Schroeder commended the administrators and staff of Southwest Dubois and at all the county’s school districts for their work to keep education going.

“We’ve got a long way to go with this thing yet,” he said. “The idea is to come out of it better than we went in.”

Local school corporations will continue to provide weekly meal service for families who need it. Parents can contact their child’s school for information on how to participate.

Diocese of Evansville Catholic Schools Superintendent Daryl Hagan also announced a plan for parochial schools in the diocese — which includes Holy Trinity Catholic School — to continue e-learning through May 1, or the end of the school year. Under the plan, students will receive four days of e-learning each week, with the fifth day dedicated to teacher planning.

“Catholic schools, collaborating with parents and guardians as the primary educators, seek to educate the whole child by providing an excellent education rooted in Gospel values,” Hagan said in a prepared statement announcing the plan. “In the past few weeks, this collaboration between families and schools has never been truer.”

In a video posted to Facebook shortly after the announcement of the extended closures, Dubois and Celestine elementaries Principal Brenda Ferguson posted a video to Facebook reminding students that they are expected to complete the work, as it will be graded and they will be marked absent for incomplete assignments. She also filled in students on what’s been going on at school while they’ve been away — teachers planning, and lots of cleaning and disinfecting. She assured the students that the school would be ready for them when it’s time to return.

“We just know we all have to stay safe right now and stay healthy,” she said in the video. “And we will be back together in a few weeks.”

Schools will not be required to make up the days they are closed, as education is continuing through e-learning. The days dedicated to teacher planning will also not need to be made up. The state has waived 20 days of the 180-day requirement. Schools can use those 20 days in any combination necessary.

ILEARN — the state standardized test — has been canceled for this school year.

Following Holcomb’s announcement, North Spencer Superintendent Dan Scherry sent his community a message that the corporation plans to continue with its initial plan for instruction through April 5. North Spencer administrators and teachers want to finish this week of e-learning so they can see where adjustments need to be made. He said his team will have their plan for the last three weeks of April figured out by April 3.

So far, Scherry said, e-learning has been going well.

“There’s still going to be pockets that need adjustment, but with our people I have no doubt we’ll figure it out,” he said.

He also pointed out that for many students, losing two months of the school year will include a grieving process as events and programs they were counting on are canceled or altered. He encouraged the community to be mindful and to support the students.

“This will be a true testament to humankind and the human spirit,” Scherry said. “I’m a big believer in human spirit, so I think we’ll be all right, but it’s going to be a challenge for all of us.”

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