January 13, 2022
As you can imagine, the District is facing multiple challenges at the current time as we try to navigate the pandemic and the recent surges in positive cases. As a result, I need to update you on several items relating to our challenges and our steps moving forward so you can plan accordingly.
The Indiana Area School District Board of School Directors and Administration fully and wholeheartedly believe that in-person learning is best for students. As such, we are committed to remaining open for as long as we are able to do so. Based on the strong recommendation from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), there are two scenarios that would prohibit our keeping schools open and result in a short-term closure: Either a building reaches the 5% infection rate of the building population or we reach a point where we do not have enough staff to facilitate in-person learning. Unless and until either of those circumstances comes to pass, we will do our best to remain open while also being diligent about preparing for a sudden change in plans. Please click here to visit PDE’s information for additional information on their guidance to schools.
1-Day Closure at Horace Mann Elementary School - Friday, January 14, 2022
Horace Mann Elementary School has reached a 6% infectious rate of the total number of staff and students. As a result, after consultation with the DOH, Horace Mann will have a remote instruction day on Friday, January 14, 2022. This one-day closure will allow the District to include Saturday, Sunday, and Monday as part of our mitigation efforts and maximizing the effectiveness of the one-day (Friday) closure. The building principal at Horace Mann Elementary will communicate with the impacted families later today. Instruction will be provided synchronously by our staff.
Ben Franklin Universal Masking on Friday, January 14th, and Tuesday, January 18th
The Ben Franklin Elementary School population will be required to wear masks on Friday, January 14th and Tuesday, January 18th as they have reached the “substantial” category as listed in our Health and Safety Plan. The school will still be open for in-person learning on these days. According to our plan, staff and students will be required to wear their masks regardless of their vaccination status. The only individuals who are precluded from this expectation are those who previously submitted medical excuses.
Please understand that this decision was not made lightly. We are facing multiple challenges at the current time, and our ability to remain open for in-person learning and the ability to maintain extracurricular programming are at stake. We hoped that we would never reach this point, but we have and now must respond by following our approved plan.
Email Communication Regarding Close Contacts and Exposures
The Schools Nurses and LPN’s have done an amazing job managing these difficult times and take great pride in working with our families. It is very difficult right now for them to manage this current wave of infections, contact tracing, and reporting requirements. Each positive case results in dozens of students affected as close contacts. They have done all that they can to make the personal connection through phone calls, but with the recent, significant rise in cases, timely phone calls to all those affected is becoming impossible to maintain. In order to provide timely communication to our families, the District will move towards email notifications regarding close contacts and exposures. We value the conversations we have with our families in working through these challenges, but the number of cases and related steps is making it impossible to make timely contact. Our health staff has done an incredible job in meeting a herculean task, but we believe the email notifications will get families the information they need more quickly and efficiently.
We recognize that there are many competing views and beliefs on the pandemic, COVID, and the challenges associated with them both. We are trying our best to maintain in-person learning, but it is becoming increasingly difficult each day. We are hopeful that the current increase in cases as a result of the holiday break will soon subside.
As always, we appreciate our families and students for their patience, understanding, and cooperation; our School Board for their leadership in trying times; our administrators for guiding us through the ever-changing daily challenges; and our faculty and staff for their exceptional dedication to our students. This is hard and we are all going through a lot. We will get through this - together.
Mr. Michael J. Vuckovich