State Leaders Leave COVID-19 School Reopening Plans To Local Health Departments

Jun 9, 2020

The state recommends schools have students and staff wear masks and maintain social distancing measures when they return to in-person classes.
Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

School leaders and educators are still figuring out what the state's latest guidance on how to reopen buildings means for them. Many worry about how to pay for some of the changes, and whether or not all of them will be needed – or possible – in different parts of the state. 

During a webinar with school leaders Tuesday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick echoed the governor and state health commissioner's past comments on how closely they expect schools to follow the guidelines. She says it's largely up to local health departments to decide if schools are doing enough. 

"Do not forget that ultimately, the local health department can shut you down," she says.

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McCormick says the governor plans to buy 2 million masks to distribute to schools, and that her department is still reviewing how that will be done. But, some local health departments may not require schools to use them.

"If your plan with your local health department says no mask, that is up to you and your local health department," she says. 

And the reliance on local health officials means some schools could face greater funding challenges than others. 

Christopher Lagoni is the executive director of the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association. He says schools could need more or less funding, based on what local officials decide.

"Communities where the local health department does step up – those plans could be put together at a lower cost than say other plans that say 'well, just follow the CDC guidance,'" he says.

Some schools plan to start the 2020-21 school year in late July – leaving them about six weeks to prepare.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.