IPS superintendent: District will stick with in-person learning

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The superintendent of Indiana’s second-largest school district said Wednesday she needs the community’s help to keep schools open.

Officials with Indianapolis Public Schools and the Indiana State Department of Health set up back-to-back school COVID-19 vaccination clinics this week. At least 36 students signed up for a Wednesday afternoon clinic at Arsenal Technical High School, and another clinic is scheduled for Thursday at Shortridge High School.

The Shortridge High School vaccine clinic begins at noon Thursday. Prior to 2 p.m., only students can get shots there. The clinic will open to families and staff as well as students from 2:45 p.m. until 7 p.m. Thursday.

IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said the district already has gone back to remote staff meetings and is discouraging social staff gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. Both measures were implemented in the early days of the pandemic. Masks remain mandatory in all IPS buildings. Johnson said the district is trying to avoid an all-virtual year.

“Our north star right now is to do what we can to keep our students in school and continue to offer in-person learning,” she said.

A little more than half of Indiana residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and Megan Carlson, director of IPS health services, said the rate is much lower among children ages 5-11. She said only about 1,200 IPS students have submitted documentation of COVID vaccination to the district to date. Carlson said opening up the clinics to the students’ families allows IPS to reach multiple populations that might otherwise have trouble getting a dose.

“It’s really hard to take off work and get appointments set up and bring kids to the clinic,” she said. “We have had families bring their younger kids to these clinics, so it’s not just our school-based students.”

Carlson and Johnson said doing vaccinations through the school system means students and families can get information from trusted members of the local community. This helps cut through vaccine misinformation.

Johnson said, depending on the number of COVID cases, it might become necessary to move individual classrooms or grade levels to virtual learning. She said it will take the entire IPS community to prevent the entire district from doing so.

“The more that people in our community are masking, are getting themselves vaccinated, the higher the chance of our schools being able to operate as normal,” the superintendent said.

Fort Wayne Community Schools is the state’s largest school district with 29,486 students. IPS is second, with 25,611 students, and Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. is third with 22,822 students.