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Parents Playbook: Elkhart County Health Officer recommends in-person learning for upcoming school year

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 5:47 PM EDT
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ELKHART, Ind. (WNDU) -We dig back into our parent’s playbook after Elkhart County’s Health Officer announced her recommendation for schools to reopen with in-person learning.

16 News Now tells us what this means for schools in Elkhart County.

Elkhart community schools planned to offer the option of either in-person or virtual learning for this school year back on July 14th.

Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Lydia Mertz said in a release that there are significant advantages when students are in the classroom.

While there is still risk with students being around each other, the advantages outweigh the small risks.

After experiencing emergency e-learning in the spring Elkhart Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Thalheimer says it's important to have students face to face with instructors.

"For us as educators to be able to have that piece in place to where we physically see students and can assess their well being--to be able to talk to them, have face-to-face conversations even from a distance and even through a mask--that at least lets us able to know their well being in ways we weren't able to during the emergency e-learning in the spring when we may not have had contact with students," Dr. Thalheimer said.

Dr. Mertz's recommendation came as a surprise for some with Elkhart County's status as a coronavirus hotspot.

She said their positive test rate decreased in the past week and a half.

This led to her to announce, "because of the control of the spread of the virus, and the work the schools have done, I recommend they open for in-person instruction as they have planned."

She added, "There remains a small risk, just as there is when children are in the grocery store, playground, or a friend's house. However, the advantages of in-person instruction outweigh that small risk at this time."

I spoke with the Elkhart County Emergency Management director who told me how they're moving forward with preparing to host students.

"We've scheduled a tabletop discussion to occur next Thursday where we can just run through some scenarios of what-ifs, and try to reinforce to the schools that we're here to support them, we can provide PPE, we can provide resources, whatever they should need," Elkhart County Emergency Management Director Jennifer Tobey.

The school district in Elkhart County will have the final decision on whether or not to implement in-person learning.

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