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IPS delays start of school year to Aug. 17; sports events put on hold

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The school year will begin a little later for Indianapolis Public Schools.

The 2020-2021 school year for IPS will now start on Aug. 17, 2020.

The school system announced the move Saturday following a vote of the IPS Board of School Commissioners.

On Saturday afternoon, IPS Athletics announced its programming would be put on hold immediately.

IPS was expecting Indiana to be in Stage 5 by the time school started, but Gov. Eric Holcomb froze the state at stage 4.5. IPS decided they need to wait and see how restrictions will change.

IPS says Aug. 17 is the date to keep in mind for returning to school, but not necessarily the date to mark on your calendar.

“We know that we need to be positioned as we get closer to that date depending on what is happening from a health perspective in our community to either make a longer-term decision around opening virtually or opening in person the closer we get to that Aug. 17 date, ” Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said.

Classes starting later means the academic calendar is going to move around just a little bit.

“We need to have some conversations within the district, look at that calendar about accommodations we’re going to make and bring that recommendation to our board at the end of July,” Johnson said.

Parents like Lindsay Buckner are OK with the push back.

“I feel like that’s a good idea,” Buckner said. “Then it’s giving everybody the time to think about either doing e-learning or back in school.”

Buckner says she’s hoping for the second option.

“I kind of want school,” Buckner said. “Because I’m a student as well. I’m going for my bachelor’s degree. So it’s kind of a hard task when I’ve got three students trying to juggle them and my school.”

Her daughter, Anastasia, on the other hand says she’d rather not bother with trying for in-person classes at all.

“The COVID-19!” Anastasia Buckner said. “I don’t want to catch it and I don’t want them to catch it either.”

Many students won’t be back in the classroom. About 25% of IPS families — 8,500 students — are already signed up for e-learning this year, and it could be more since the deadline to enroll in e-learning is extended as well. IPS says if e-learning is the best option, they’ll stay flexible and keep safety a priority.

“We need to be ready at a moment’s notice to implement a full virtual learning program,” Johnson said. “Whether that be at a classroom level, a school level, or district level. So that’s always been a part of our planning and it’s a path that we’ll be ready to take if and when we need to.”

IPS says they’re working closely with the Marion County Health Department to create the best plan possible if an outbreak were to happen in school.

IPS released the following statement following the move:

In an update earlier this week, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Kristina Box shared the number of COVID-19 cases in the state were rising and announced a decision to freeze the state at Stage 4.5 for an additional two weeks. 

In light of that update, the Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners voted at its annual retreat on Saturday, July 18, to delay the start of school for two weeks — to Monday, Aug. 17.

“As I’ve acknowledged all along, this is a fluid situation and we will remain flexible,” said IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson. “My job as superintendent is to look at all of the data from state and local health and government officials to make the best decision for our students and staff about the new school year.  The decision to delay the opening of school by two weeks gives our community more time to ensure we are turning the tide on the number of positive COVID-19 cases and confirm we are doing the right thing.”

When school starts Aug. 17, the current plan remains in place to provide both in-person learning and full-time remote learning options for families. The delay will also give families more time to decide which learning option will work best for their child.

The district will also reopen the Full-Time Remote Learning Registration Form to allow families interested in our remote learning program to sign up before school begins.

“I want to personally thank our IPS family for their continued understanding as we navigate these challenging times and make decisions in the best interest for the health and safety of our students and staff,” said Johnson

This comes as many debate whether to send children and teachers back into the classroom during the worldwide pandemic.

On Saturday, the Indiana State Department of Health announced 855 new COVID-19 cases and 17 additional deaths.

Currently, Indiana has 55,654 COVID-19 cases, with more than 12,000 of those in Marion County.