Munster schools reopen to in-person classes, but questions over how many COVID-19 cases could cause move to all e-learning

MUNSTER, Ind. (WLS) -- Socially distant classrooms, assigned seats for lunch, masks on all day save for eating and drinking in the school: This is the new normal for in-person class in Munster.

"Just to wear this mask all day is going to be something that you're not used to doing," said Town of Munster School Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hendrix.

Hendrix said his district has been planning for students to return back into the classroom since March.

"We've talked to parents. We realize we can't eliminate this, but we're going to try to get it to the point where the risk is minimal," he said.

Desks will be spread apart and there will be a mandatory two week home quarantines and e-learning if students are exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Grouped classes and blocked days have been implemented to reduce movement.

Hendrix said one of the most important precautions is, "Don't send your student to school ill. Because that is going to end up affecting us here."

There were some bumps in the road for day one of schools in Northwest Indiana.

Gary Community School Corporation canceled all e-learning classes due to network problems from Monday's storm.

"We apologize, these areunforeseen circumstances to all of us on top of Covid," said superintendent Dr. Paige McNulty. They'll try again on Monday, August 17th.

Heather Lewis's children are now doing their e-learning at Starbucks. Their power and internet were knocked out, also due to the storm. Lewissaid she's not taking a chance sending her kids in person.

"With the pandemic, I just wasn't comfortable sending my children back to a traditional school setting," Lewis said.

Parents of in-person students are taking it a day at a time.

"It's nerve wracking. First day jitters and then Covid, so it's weird, but I fully trust our school," said Jen Stevens whose daughter, Ava, attends Wilbur Wright Middle.

"It wasn't as crazy as I thought it was gonna be," Ava said as she hopped into the back seat of her mother's car, still wearing her white face covering. "Teachers dealt with it really well."

But questions remain over how many Covid cases in Munster could cause a move to all e-learning.
"We have asked as superintendents in Lake County over and over, and really we've had no commitment from the Indiana State Department of Health. We've had no commitment from LakeCounty HealthDepartmentwhat that number would be," Hendrix said.

The Indiana State Health Department told ABC7 there is no single metric that will determine a school's closure, and that it examines data for each county daily and provides weekly updates to schools.
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