The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, August 04, 2021 1:00 am

FWCS plans virus update

No decision on protocol changes

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne Community Schools board will get an update about coronavirus protocols Monday, a week before the academic year begins, Superintendent Mark Daniel told an online audience Tuesday.

Daniel didn't provide specifics during a Facebook Live update, but he didn't rule out the possibility of changes to previous announced plans.

“I'm not going to tell you what our guidelines are going to be on the start of school on Aug. 16 because we're still in that discussion,” Daniel said.

He and other Allen County superintendents met Thursday with county health officials, he said, and FWCS leaders met Tuesday with the district's health and wellness director.

“We had the discussion of, with the trends we're seeing, what is school going to look like on day one?” Daniel said. “I will guarantee you this, though. We are not going to have a hybrid schedule like we had last year.”

State health officials last week encouraged vaccinations, explaining new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the rampant delta variant is far easier to transmit to others. That's why the state is seeing cases spike to last year's levels but below the peak.

New, statewide case totals have regularly topped 1,000 in the past week. The Indiana Department of Health announced 1,610 new cases Tuesday. The Allen County Department of Health reported 114 new cases – the first triple-digit increase since early May, when 100 cases were reported.

All FWCS students will learn in person this academic year except for those who enrolled in Fort Wayne Virtual Academy, the district's new online program. Capacity was limited to 720 students.

Daniel wants students in buildings every day, but he acknowledged the district will likely be affected by quarantines – a health measure out of schools' control.

Vaccinated students and staff can avoid quarantines if they don't have symptoms, but unvaccinated individuals – including all students younger than 12 – must follow the same quarantine rules as last year, Daniel said.

“If we choose not to be vaccinated – which, by the way, our student populations are extremely low on vaccination – then we're going to have to deal with quarantining,” Daniel said. “That's reality.”

About 80% of the staff is vaccinated, he said.

Educators must figure out how to help students who are quarantined for as many as 14 days at a time, Daniel said.

“We cannot have the same phenomenon we had last year, where students were disengaged,” he said. “Learning was hampered.”

While Daniel spoke, a teacher asked what will happen if she must stay at home because her elementary-age student must quarantine. FWCS understands that will be an issue for many people, and administrators are working on options, the district replied.

Other Facebook users asked about masks.

Daniel addressed the mask policy in relation to visitors. He hopes to welcome many volunteers this academic year.

Current policy states visitors must wear a mask unless they show proof of vaccination. The process ensures a safe environment, he said.

“But remember, there will be some information coming out on Monday evening at our next board meeting that may have a slight variation to that,” Daniel said. “Volunteers, irregardless, I want, I plead for volunteers to help our teachers and help our students.”

Daniel's next Facebook Live update – now held twice a semester instead of monthly – will be Oct. 5.

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