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IPS back-to-school plan includes masks for all, social distancing

Posted at 12:04 PM, Jul 10, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — All Indianapolis Public Schools students and teachers will have to wear masks when classes start for the new year on Aug. 3, according to its back-to-school plan.

IPS spent the morning sharing its plan with teachers, staff and parents. The plan has been in the works for months with numerous committees coordinating with the Marion County Health Department and the Indiana Department of Education.

IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson says she’s confident about the return to school and says the leadership will be flexible in the event the situation changes.

A few of the major highlights from the district's plan:

  • Students and teachers will have to wear masks. Students will get one free mask from their school and get mask breaks during the day.
  • There will be restrictions in the hallways to limit interaction.
  • Drinking fountains will be shut down. Students will get a water bottle and IPS will install a new touchless water fountain in each building. The district is buying 80 fountains.
  • The goal is for only one child per seat on the school bus.
  • IPS is encouraging kids who can walk to school to do so. IPS is hiring 18 crossing guards to serve 13 schools where crossing traffic is a concern.
  • Between 12 and 14 teachers will support online learning for grades K-8. Parents will have an option to sign up for virtual learning. Sign up will begin Friday and run through July 17. Parents who pick this option must complete all 9 weeks of the fall semester before moving to in person learning.
  • If a case of COVID-19 is determined in a school, each case will be reviewed. There is no blanket policy to just shutdown schools.
  • The district is investing $12 million on iPads and Chromebooks to assist with e-learning in the fall. Before the pandemic, IPS could not offer every student a device to use at home.
  • The district also said it’s depending on parents to make sure the plan works. Parents will be expected to check their child’s temperature before putting them on the bus or sending them to school. The temperature should not be above 100.4 degrees.

IPS also reports spending $3 million on supplies. The school system says this is just an initial amount and expects the number to rise. The following has been purchased:

  • 200,000 disposable masks for students and staff who forget their mask at home.
  • 4,000 face masks and 3,200 face shields for staff to wear.
  • 32,000 washable masks for students
  • 3,000 gallons of hand sanitizer
  • 80 touchless water fountains
  • 35,000 water bottles so each student has a water bottle to fill at the touchless water fountain.

Johnson said she worked with the teachers’ union on this plan and she doesn’t know how many parents will pick e-learning for their children.