As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Indiana, and schools implemented temporary closings, local superintendents are urging students and their families to practice safety measures, especially during the Thanksgiving break.

Last week, Kokomo School Corporation [KSC] Superintendent Jeff Hauswald emphasized the importance of keeping gatherings small while celebrating.

“We IMPLORE you to assist us by limiting large gatherings, practicing social distancing and by wearing a mask,” he wrote in the letter addressing KSC’s decision to move to eLearning through Dec. 4. “We anxiously await the development of a vaccine and other medical advances that are beginning to shed increased optimism for a return to ‘normal’ at some point in 2021.”

KSC further increased preventive measures by also implementing eLearning for the week following Thanksgiving break in hopes to slow the spread of the virus following Thanksgiving. According to the letter, KSC believes this will increase the likelihood of in-person learning from Dec. 7-18.

Eastern Howard School Corporation Superintendent [EHSC] Keith Richie, like other local superintendents, wants to make sure students stay healthy and are ready to finish out the year in-person.

“I asked [the parents and students] … let’s just work together in and out of school to avoid spreading this virus,” he said, adding that he thanks the parents for their cooperation. “It’s important to me and it’s important to the local health officials. We want all our kids back after next week.”

Richie said the safest place for the kids is the school and most of the positive test’s EHSC has had are coming in from the community and affecting the ability to operate. He added everyone should listen to the health officials.

“I’m not the person who would say, ‘Don’t celebrate with your family,’ but maybe not with your extended family,” he said, and noted Zoom as a way to connect with that extended family.

EHSC, as well as Taylor schools [TCSC] Northwestern School Corporation [NWSC] and Western School Corporation [WSC] are all scheduled to return after break to in-person learning Nov. 30.

Like EHSC, WSC chose to move to eLearning prior to the Thanksgiving break to help reduce the number of positive cases coming into the school, according to a letter from WSC Superintendent Randy McCracken.

“I know that eLearning and not having students in school creates a hardship for many families, but following this schedule will allow us to have 12 days away from school while only adding four additional eLearning days,” he said.

For NWSC Superintendent Kristen Bilkey, being able to safely finish the year out in person is a top priority, and following CDC guidelines is what needs to be done.

“As hard as that is over the Thanksgiving holiday where you want to gather in large groups, I think it’s so important for all of us - myself included - to take a serious look at the CDC guidelines and make sure that we are following those in limiting our gatherings, wearing our face coverings and social distancing,” she said. “All those things - we really need to take them seriously right now, especially if we want to come back and finish in person.

“I just want to still be able to provide in-person instruction and the only way we can do that is if families follow the guidelines so that their kids are healthy and can return to school.”

At Taylor schools, Superintendent Chris Smith said, "I wish [everyone] the best and the safest holiday they can have with their family."

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