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Marion County Public Health Department: Omicron surging in schools

Encouraging students and staff to mask, get booster
Empty classroom covid-19
Posted at 8:12 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 20:19:58-05

INDIANAPOLIS — As COVID-19 cases run rampant across Central Indiana, schools are struggling.

This week, the state reported a record number of positive student cases - 15,485.

"We are still going on that upward trend. We have flattened the curve in the wrong direction with omicron, especially in schools," said Assistant Administrator of Infectious Disease, Madison Weintraut.

Weintraut says due to transmission, more schools have been forced to switch to remote learning.

"We are seeing high numbers in elementary, middle school and high school. Omicron's just gotten to be a lot more contagious than previous variants," said Weintraut.

While the goal is to keep students and staff safe, she says it does have an impact on those who rely on school for meals.

"With remote learning we are looking at students not getting socialization outside of the classrooms [and] students that aren't getting access to free lunches. The decision to move to remote learning doesn't get made lightly. There are a number of factors to consider," said Weintraut.

"You get to a point where you are frustrated and you really recognize your children are going to be a little bit neglected when it comes to their education," said Jennifer Rubenstein.

Rubenstein is a mother of two in Pike Township. She says districts have had to make these decisions last minute and it's impacting her daughters.

"I am seeing my children tend to be a bit further behind," she said. "Even today, I know my youngest daughter, her teachers happen to be out so she has a guest or substitute teacher."

The Indiana Department of Health reports more than 84,000 students, 5,300 teachers and nearly 7,800 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 this school year.

Amy, a teacher in Indianapolis, says teachers are covering for each other with kids and staff in quarantine.

"My daughter's bus didn't show up this morning, so Pike is having massive issues there ... thank heavens I only live three minutes from the school," said Rubenstein.

Sarah Dorsey, a spokesperson for Pike Township Schools, says four elementary and five middle school buses were significantly delayed this morning due to lack of drivers.

Signficant delays are considered one to two hours.

Dorsey says a substitute driver also missed two stops Tuesday morning. She says they apologize for that error and are making adjustments to help fix as many issues as possible.

Rubenstein says to help this strain, districts need a better plan.

"If we need to go virtual, if we need to go remote. let's do it for a period of time. Let's have that plan so parents can plan around that and let's give our children a little sense of relief for the next week or next two weeks. Not 'is it going to happen tomorrow' and
are we not going to get a call at 5:30 in the morning,'" said Rubenstein.