'We knew it was a when — not if': Indiana school gets positive COVID-19 case hours after reopening

'We knew it was a when — not if': Indiana school gets positive COVID-19 case hours after reopening
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As schools grapple with the pressure of President Donald Trump’s threat to reopen or else, one Indiana public school became one of the first in the nation to actually do so last week. And the end result was that doors weren’t open 24 hours before a positive coronavirus case was reported.

A student at Greenfield Central Junior High School tested positive for the virus hours after returning to the campus in the Indianapolis suburb of Greenfield Thursday, The New York Times reported. “We knew it was a when, not if,” Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation Superintendent Harold Olin told the newspaper, admitting he was “very shocked it was on Day 1.”

Olin told local news station WXIN-TV that when school officials received word of a positive case, administrators put their plan into action. “We immediately pull that student from class,” Olin told WXIN. “We isolate them in a specific place in the clinic. Get the kid home.”

The school then started trying to nail down who the affected student had come into contact with, later requiring those children to quarantine for 14 days. “There’s no way that you can completely keep that out of a school corporation with 4,400 kids, or even if you have 300 kids in a school,” Olin told WXIN. “You’re likely going to have it at some point.”

Indiana reported 67,857 positive cases and 2,775 deaths related to COVID-19 as of Sunday. Although that pales in comparison to states like California, in which Los Angeles County alone reported 190,857 confirmed cases and 4,669 related deaths, the numbers haven’t led to widespread support for a return to school in Indiana.

In Greenfield, which has a population of about 23,000 people, coronavirus cases have remained "relatively high" since they began to "spike" in mid- June, The New York Times reported. Russell Wiley, a history teacher at Greenfield-Central High School, told the newspaper he “most definitely” felt like his school wasn’t ready to reopen. “Really, our whole state’s not ready,” he said. “We don’t have the virus under control. It’s just kind of like pretending like it’s not there.”

The district gave parents an option to have their children start virtually or attend classes, and only 15% chose remote learning. Patricia Woods told WXIN her family is part of that minority. “… Not only are you risking your family but you’re risking everybody else’s family as well. It’s just not worth it,” she said.

An unidentified father at Greenfield-Central Junior High told The New York Times few people wear masks in his community but faced with at least a one-hour commute to work each day, he felt sending his daughter back to school was the better option. “It’s just a mess,” he said. “I don’t know what the answers are.”

Indianapolis Public Schools was planning to reopen schools Monday but instead decided to push back its start date to Aug. 17 following the spike in coronavirus cases, according to The Indianapolis Star. “As I’ve acknowledged all along, this is a fluid situation and we will remain flexible,” Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said. “My job as superintendent is to look at all of the data from state and local health and government officials to make the best decision for our students and staff about the new school year. The decision to delay the opening of school by two weeks gives our community more time to ensure we are turning the tide on the number of positive COVID-19 cases and confirm we are doing the right thing.”

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