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FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Students in the Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. woke up Wednesday to a special surprise, and it wasn’t just the snow.

Not only did they get a day off school, but also an assignment to play.

Superintendent Jack Parker said students in the district east of Indianapolis have missed out on so much this year during the coronavirus pandemic that he wanted to make sure they didn’t have to add the first snow of the season to their list.

Parker sent families an email instructing them to use the “scientific process in planning appropriate clothing to remain warm and dry while spending time outside. Once this hypothesis has been identified, and appropriate attire has been secured, students will be expected to test their theory by going outdoors and playing in the snow.”

Parent Toni Dekeyser said, after a tough several months, the “scientific process” was just the break she and her son needed.

“It was so much relief and then to wake my son up this morning and say, ‘Hey, not only do you not have to get up right now, but you have a snow day and we get to go outside and play in the snow,’ and he was ecstatic,” Dekeyser said.

Her son Lucas said, “I didn’t have to really do school. I didn’t have to do all my work and get stressed about it.”

Stressed is a feeling Dekeyser never imagined her 10-year-old would know, and, for Parker, finding ways to ease that burden is what’s most important.

The superintendent said, “I really felt a need for them to get out there and exercise outside and recharge their batteries both physically and emotionally.”

He said students took his message seriously. He drove around the community and saw more kids playing outside than he has in months.

The school shared a post on its Facebook page asking families to show how they spent their day off. Nearly 150 people by Wednesday evening had shared photos and videos, and thanked the school district for a fun snow day.

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Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two central Indiana police departments are raising funds for a trained K-9 officer and the Indy Winter Classic Dog Show is helping out.

This weekend the Hoosier Kennel Club is donating $1,000 each to the New Palestine and Fortville Police Departments to help them fund the purchase of a new K-9 officer. 

Both departments have been raising money for weeks. New Palestine PD’s target goal is $20,000, which includes the dog, training, equipment including a K-9 friendly vehicle cage and veterinary care.

“This is the biggest community initiative that our police department has undertaken in recent memory,” writes officers on the NPPD’s Go Fund Me page.  

NPPD’s K-9 will be dual trained to track suspects and find missing people as well as detect narcotics, according to the page. The dog would also be available to help neighboring agencies.

The Fortville Police Department had a K-9 officer in 2012 and retired her after an officer was ambushed and she suffered from anxiety, according to the FPD’s Go Fund Me page

“We have decided that now is the time to re-introduce a K-9 program back to the police department,” writes the officers, noting the current opioid epidemic and the large population growth in Fortville. 

Kevin Allen, chairman of the Hoosier Kennel Club, presented the $1,000 check to the New Palestine Police officers Friday and anticipates meeting the Fortville officers Saturday.

The Indy Winter Classic Dog Show runs through Sunday in the West Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  

HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — Hold back the tears if you can.

A mom is back home and had an emotional reunion with her daughter in Hancock County.

Soldier Tawnee Hinton surprised her daughter  Avarie at a Hancock County Children’s Choir performance Saturday night in Fortville.

Check out the video above for the emotional reunion. 

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – A Fortville man was arrested Wednesday for allegedly inappropriately touching a teenager.

According to the Fortville Police Department, officers were called to the 300 block of Michigan Street a report of a child in need on Oct. 24.

After arriving on scene, officers say a 17-year-old male was inappropriately touched and seduced by a 42-year-old man, Robert Hartsock.

Hartsock was then taken into custody and transported to the Hancock County Jail.

He faces preliminary charges for child seduction and sexual battery.

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Authorities broke ground Monday on a new fire station that will include a Save Haven Baby Box. 

A Decatur Township fire station was set in June to become the first in the Indianapolis area with baby box. That box is at Decatur Township Fire Station No. 74, 3750 Foltz St., about a half-mile south of Kentucky Avenue, allows people to anonymously leave babies in a temperature-controlled, ventilated and sanitary space. Indiana recently changed its law to allow the boxes at fire stations staffed 24 hours a day.

Vernon Township Fire Station No. 3 will be at 600 Vitality Drive in Fortville, on the Hancock County town’s south side off U.S. 36.

Vernon Township government is now housed in leased spaces in the town about 4 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Vernon Township has about 13,000 residents. 

The fire station will open in the spring, said a news release from Autumn Gasior, a public relations contractor. The release did not indicate how much the building will cost or how it is being funded.

Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, has said the devices are meant as a last resort for women in distress and she would personally encourage women to call their 24/7 hotline — 866-992-2291 — and consider other options, including delivering the baby in person to authorities and providing valuable medical and family history.

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — The Indianapolis 500 might still be weeks away, but the greatest spectacle in kindergarten racing is underway at Mt. Vernon Community Schools. 

On Friday, 120 kindergartners and their families gathered in the Fortville Elementary School parking lot for the annual Kindy 500, where the 5- and 6-year-olds walk the track in homemade cardboard race cars. 

“The kindergartners all make a box with their families. They start it in March,” said Courtney Munsell, a Fortville Elementary kindergarten teacher and organizer for the Kindy 500. “They get to decorate it. It’s free game. They get to make whatever they want.” 

This year boasted a fair amount of firetrucks and police cruisers but also included a school bus, a Batmobile, a tank engine, a train and a shark. 

“This is Pippa’s car,” said Ryla Stephenson, a kindergartner in this year’s race with her pink and white Pippa Mann-lookalike race car. “I added glittery paint and I added windows to it, and some wheels to it. But, they don’t roll.”

Kindergarten Jalini Stooker showed off his racing police car. “We made ‘Fortville’ right on this side. We put ‘Police’ on there and they know that’s a police.” 

The kindergartners began the day with a car parade, then set up for slow-pace “races” around the parking lot. They were led by a cardboard box pace car and at the end met an Indy 500 princess with a checkered flag. All drivers picked up a medal and of course, a carton of milk, at the end. 

“It was like a real race,” Ryla Stephenson said. “It was really awesome and it was really good.” 

As in most races, there was a bit of drama. Munsell said kindergartner Adrien Cote got in a cardboard “crash” and had to be taken to the pit crew to be taped up. 

“I ran so fast and I actually tripped over this foot and I crashed a part, and it looks different,” said Cote, referring to a bumped corner of his red and blue race car. 

The is more than just a race. Teachers prepare their students well in advance, teaching them about their community, enabling visits from real pace cars and Indy 500 princesses. 

On May 4, 2018, 120 kindergartners and their families gathered in the Fortville Elementary School parking lot for the annual Kindy 500. (Brenna Donnelly/WISH Photo)

The kindergartners also made their big debut in front of the rest of the elementary school, which Principal Stacy Muffler said is important. 

“We line the hallways with all our first- through fifth-graders, all of our staff. They clap and cheer for them and I think they’re a little star-struck,” said Muffler.

The principal said the annual event has a larger purpose than just a fun recess. 

“I think the purpose is a lot of family engagement. Having students really apply their creativity and different skills through the year can come out when they’re creating their cars and creating even the social dynamic of encouraging others during the race and being a good team player,” Muffler said. 

Mt. Vernon Community Schools has its Kindy 500s every year. Their next event for McCordsville Elementary School kindergartners will be the week before the race. They said former radio “Voice of the 500” Paul Page is expected to attend and call the race. 

The Indianapolis 500 will be May 27.

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – One man is in custody following a Friday morning Fortville traffic stop.

According to the Fortville Police Department, a speeding vehicle, driven by 22-year-old Ja Qwanta Streeter, was stopped.

Police say that during the course of the stop, it was discovered that Streeter was in possession of 175 illegal pills packaged for individual resale.

Also found in the vehicle were the following items:

Street currently faces preliminary charges for dealing in a schedule four controlled substance, dealing marijuana and carrying a handgun without a license.

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Construction is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks for a $9 million downtown development project in Fortville.

Adam Zaklikoswki, planning administrator for the town in northwestern Hancock County, said the project has been in the works since 2014, as more and more shoppers and residents find their way to the town from booming city of Fishers and nearby Lawrence and the Geist Reservoir area.

“Certainly, all of the growth that’s happening in Hamilton County and the McCordsville area, it keeps pushing east,” said Zaklikowski, giving 24-Hour News 8 a tour of Fortville’s Main Street stretch. “We’ve got a really great historic downtown, as you can see, and we’d like to improve upon that by adding fresh infrastructure.”

Zaklikowski said the town’s plan is threefold: beautify Main Street, improve lighting and safety along Michigan Street, and create a paved walk-bike trail connecting downtown Fortville to Mt. Vernon Schools.

“On the trail component, it’s really an excellent opportunity to have that physical connection, a great way to get out and have some good exercise, get some fresh air,” Zaklikowski said.

He said his development team was inspired by Zionsville’s downtown village in Boone County, although they want to develop their downtown in their own way.

“We want Fortville to be unique. We don’t want to be kind of a nameless suburb,” he said. “We definitely want to keep that small-town feel.”

The improvements to beautify Main Street include new sidewalks, curbs and lighting along with new street trees and a crosswalk. Zaklikowski said a portion of the project should be complete by fall 2019 and will cost $2.5 million.

The Michigan Street improvements are primarily safety-related, involving the addition of streetlights and also ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, all for about $500,000. That project should conclude by summer.

Finally, the trail connecting downtown Fortville to the Mt. Vernon school complex will cost $6 million. The 2-mile long, 10-feet wide, paved trail will begin at Garden Street and Fortville Pike. He hopes to begin construction in March 2020.

People at businesses along Main Street said they’re excited about the plan and are already benefiting from the uptick in costumers from out of town.

Zaklikowski said 80 percent of the $9 million development project will be funded from a federal grant the town has been awarded. Taxpayers will pick up the remaining 20 percent of the bill.

He said Fortville residents can expect to see construction begin within the next few weeks, starting with the streetlights and sidewalk ramps along Michigan Street.

Employees of FoxGardin Family Kitchen in Fishers said they are doing so well that they have opened up a second location, FoxGardin Kitchen and Ale, in Fortville, just 7 minutes away, and are considering a third in the town of just 4,000 people.

“For us, we’d just like to keep growing,” said Spencer Wood, FoxGardin’s office manager. “We get a lot of people from Geist and Fishers and the north side of Indy; also, the east side.”

Wood said she moved to Fortville two years ago for the position at FoxGardin and was surprised to see how the town has developed.

“It’s poppin now,” she said, referencing new businesses along Main Street including a winery. “You know everyone is just really thriving.”

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — With early morning low temperatures and ice causing school start delays, Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation is teaming up with local start-up Mobil Trackr to provide GPS school bus tracking to parents and students waiting at the bus stop.

Derek Shelton, director of operations at Mt. Vernon Community Schools (MVCS) explained how parents can download the free app and use it anytime to locate their child’s school bus within their fleet of more than 60 buses.

“The app tracks the bus, whether it’s parked or driving, and the parent or child can pull the app up and see where their bus is,” Shelton said. “In after-school activities, when our buses have to travel significant distances, parents can still track the bus and know that the kids are on their way home.”

Parents can adjust the settings in the “Don’t Miss the Bus!” app to send them a push notification when the bus nears their child’s stop. The app also alerts parents when a bus number changes or if the schools have a delay or cancellation. Shelton, a father of two children attending Mt. Vernon schools, says he feels incorporating the app into their system shows parents the schools prioritize student safety.

“You just have the peace of mind as a parent that the kids are safe, and where they’re at, and if they’re there when they’re supposed to be there,” Shelton said.

Other school districts in central Indiana have similar programs, but Mt. Vernon’s system includes WiFi on all buses and several layers of security to ensure only those authorized to enter the app can see the bus locations. The system was developed by Mobil Trackr, an Internet of Things wireless provider based in Fishers.

“I think tech that is going to help you keep kids safe is completely needed,” said Bob Logan, vice president of sales for Mobil Trackr.

“When you can protect them when they go on the internet, and looking at them when they go places, as a parent, you feel very secure,” Logan said.

Logan says he’s a graduate of Indianapolis Public Schools and has been in the wireless industry for almost three decades. He hopes to share this technology with other school corporations around the state and help more parents and guardians make informed decisions about their children.

“That’s why Mt. Vernon is so cutting edge — because they’re wanting to deliver something to their parents to show they care enough to put these systems in place to do things for their young people,” said Logan. “We’re excited to be a part of it.”

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – A man in his 70s died in a crash Wednesday night on U.S.36/State Road 67 southwest of Fortville, Hancock County Sheriff’s Office said.

The crash occurred about 9:40 p.m. on the highway that extends from Marion County as Pendleton Pike. It occurred at the intersection with West County Road 900 North.

Authorities said the man’s Buick Century car was going southwest on the highway when it drifted into oncoming traffic and struck a black minivan driven by a woman from Fishers. No other information on the woman, including her condition, were immediately available.

The man died at the crash scene.

Authorities said they spent an hour cutting each victim from his or her vehicle

No intoxicants were believed to be involved, authorities said.

Police expected to reopen the highway shortly by 1 a.m.

No additional details were immediately available.