The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 14, 2022 1:00 am

5 schools in county go virtual as cases up

FWCS, NACS point to large number of ill staff

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Five Allen County schools are switching to a remote format today because of staffing shortages fueled partly by COVID-19 cases and quarantines.

They join at least two other Fort Wayne schools that previously shifted to a virtual format.

Fort Wayne Community Schools – the area's largest district with almost 30,000 students – is implementing e-learning at Shawnee Middle School and Abbett, Fairfield and Franke Park elementary schools.

“These four schools are going to eLearning because they have an exceptionally high number of staff members out ill or in quarantine,” Superintendent Mark Daniel said in a statement. “While our goal has been to keep students in school as many days as possible, we also have to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.”

Northwest Allen County Schools said COVID-19 cases and other absences contributed to the staffing shortage at Carroll Middle School.

“We cannot staff and supervise the building safely (Friday),” Principal Brandon Basham said in a statement Thursday. “Therefore, our best option is to use eLearning for the day.”

Just a day earlier, NACS told families to prepare for the possibility of classes, grade levels or schools closing with short notice. The district has about 8,000 students.

“It is also possible that your child may have periodic delayed bus pickups or drop-offs due to staffing shortages,” the district said. “We are hopeful these are temporary challenges.”

Daniel had a similar message for FWCS families.

“We are closely monitoring student and staff absence rates to determine if a school needs to temporarily move to eLearning,” he said.

NACS and FWCS said the shift to e-learning is scheduled for today only. FWCS said it gives students and staff four days out of the school buildings to finish quarantines or recover from illness.

Both districts are closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

A “significant” number of COVID-19 cases and quarantines also prompted Central Noble Junior-Senior High School to conduct lessons remotely today.

“The current situation has resulted in logistic, instructional and staffing issues within the building,” Central Noble Community Schools said Thursday.

The Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend said it has three schools – including St. Vincent de Paul School and St. Joseph Catholic School in Fort Wayne – that are fully virtual this week. The other is in Elkhart.

The diocese didn't elaborate on the reason for the shifts but said school principals review COVID-19 transmission rates in their county, and each school has the authority to determine which mitigation strategies to use.

“This can and does include going to a hybrid schedule or full remote learning for a deep clean of the buildings before returning to full-time in-person learning,” the diocese said. “Each school adjusts based on circumstances in their schools.”

Also Thursday, Bishop Luers High School said it will now recognize and accept at-home COVID-19 test results. Southwest Allen County Schools made such an announcement Monday.

Both entities said the new protocol was approved by federal, state and local health officials, but the Allen County Department of Health said Thursday that all guidance about COVID-19 procedures, policies and recommendations are from the Indiana Department of Health.

“The Allen County Health Department does not approve school plans or procedures, and only provides guidance on the state rules if asked,” Mindy Waldron, department administrator, said in a statement.

“Anything regarding the use of at-home tests by schools is following any guidance that was provided by the state directly to schools.”

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