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Indianapolis schools shift to remote learning as COVID-19 surge creates staffing shortages – IndyStar

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At least four Marion County School districts have shifted one or more school buildings to remote learning this week due to staffing shortages as the COVID-19 omicron variant is proving to be highly contagious, even for vaccinated adults.
As cases among teachers and other staff members skyrocket, schools are once again struggling to keep buildings open.
Indianapolis Public Schools announced Wednesday that its four high school and four middle schools would shift to virtual for the rest of the week.
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“This decision has been made based on the number of staff absences, including COVID-19 isolation and quarantines at the middle and high school levels,” the district said in a statement posted to its website Wednesday afternoon. “Transitioning to remote learning also gives time for affected staff and students to meet the 5-day isolation and quarantine period before returning back to school.”
The district was already scheduled to be closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday and Tuesday for a professional development day. 
The impacted schools are:
Wayne Township Schools also announced a shift to virtual learning Wednesday for Ben Davis High School due to staffing limitations. Students will attend school remotely for the remainder of the week.
Last week, Indiana schools reported more positive cases among students, teachers and other staff members than at any previous point in the pandemic. While cases among students were up about 4% from the previous peak this past fall, new cases among teachers were up more than 100% from that same time and more than 80% among other staff members. For much of the year, cases among teachers and staff members — vaccinated in higher rates than the general population — had remained relatively stable.
While the more contagious variant does appear to be spreading quickly among even fully vaccinated individuals, the vaccine is proving to still be highly effective in preventing severe illness.
IPS and Wayne Township join two other Marion County districts that have already had students on remote learning this week.
All Pike Township Schools are on eLearning until at least Wednesday. All Warren Township Schools for students in grade 5 and above are remote through the end of the week.
Warren Township Schools Superintendent Tim Hanson said the district was seeing a high number of cases resulting in absences coming back from the holiday break.
“As we continue to monitor our student and staff absences related to COVID and other illnesses that are common this time of the year, it will be our goal to keep all of our schools open and have all of our students and staff in person,” Hanson said in a letter sent to families last week. “This being said, I encourage all of our families to be thinking about and plan for the possibility of eLearning days being used in the event our staffing needs become too much to overcome.”
The next day, the district announced it would need to move to remote instruction for middle and high school students.
Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona praised schools for their efforts to keep doors open during a visit to an Indianapolis school and said 96% of schools nationwide were open for in-person instruction. The landscape seems to be shifting quickly, though, as schools are buckling under the pressure.
A handful of school districts in northwest Indiana returned from the winter break to virtual learning because of rising cases and at least one more joined them this week. Educators around the state report more absences and open classrooms forcing schools to take drastic steps, such as moving kids without a teacher into the gym for the week, to keep their doors open.
Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at 317-201-5620 or email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.

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