School closing unprecedented

The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19,  continues to infect Americans across the nation and, based on projections, is not slowing down any time soon. According to the Center for Disease Control, as of March 24, 44,183 Americans have tested positive for the illness, with 544 confirmed deaths. In Indiana, there are 365 COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths. 

Considering the presence of COVID-19 in Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb has made several announcements regarding guidelines aimed at reducing the spread of the virus. 

On March 12, Holcomb limited non-essential gatherings to 250 people or fewer, among other restrictions. Immediately following Holcomb’s statement, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced the closure of all Marion County public schools effective March 16. Washington Township Superintendent Nikki Woodson, along with superintendents from the other Marion County school districts, jointly decided to close schools beginning March 13 until April 6. Since then, cancelation of Washington Township schools was extended until May 1.

Due to Washington Township schools closing until at least May 1, district and school administration has been faced with numerous obstacles.

“We are still working through many of our challenges. When [administration] and staff are allowed back in the building we’ve got to deploy technology to needy families. We’re working on additional food distribution dates for families. We’re working on the cancelation of multiple school-sponsored events. [We’re] working with College Board, AP, IB and the state regarding testing,” Principal Evans Branigan III said.

Branigan details the possibility of April and May school-sponsored events taking place. 

“Most school-sponsored events scheduled to take place in April are being canceled. With size restrictions on gatherings, schools do not have much in the way of choice regarding gatherings. May events are still in the air as guidance from the governor’s and/or mayor’s office will guide what we are and are not able to do.

While uncertainty surrounds the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, Branigan hopes this situation, in the end, will be an opportunity for growth.

“Heed the advice of staying inside, avoiding large groups, wash, stay connected with friends [and] embrace this as an opportunity as we are all part of history now. Someday people will ask us how we endured and my hope is that upon reflection we can say with confidence that we were creative, we persevered and we grew stronger,” Branigan said. — by Jack Branigan