School protest 3

Protesters at the Elkhart County Health Department building in Elkhart Friday may have been successful, as a county commissioner said students may be going back to school sooner than expected.

ELKHART — Elkhart County students can go back to in-person instruction at the beginning of the new school year, despite hearing Thursday that they would have to wait weeks.

Schools planned on resuming in-person education in some shape or other in the upcoming school year until county Health Officer Dr. Lydia Mertz told superintendents Thursday that schools should go virtual until Sept. 28. That resulted in significant backlash, as hundreds of protesters showed up outside the Health Department building Friday afternoon.

The sudden change also got the attention of the Elkhart County Commissioners, who went to Mertz with a request for a different solution, according to Commissioner Mike Yoder.

Mertz then sent out an announcement in the late afternoon, saying that schools can resume with in-person instruction, starting Aug. 10.

"All K-12 schools in Elkhart County, public and private, are authorized to start the 2020-2021 school year (“School Year”) by providing in-person instruction or instruction via remote learning according to their COVID-19 Plan to Reopen," her order issued Friday said.

However, through Aug. 24, all school-sponsored extracurricular or co-curricular programs must cease in-person meetings and activities that cannot achieve and maintain 6 feet social distancing. During the school year, those programs will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis within each school.

According to Mertz, her decision Thursday was based on an uptick in new cases at a testing site in Elkhart County. But Friday, she learned that the uptick was due to residents from other counties being tested at that site, she said.

Mertz was also in contact with Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box and Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver, in order to compare Elkhart County with other parts of the state that are reopening schools. 

"I'm pleased to report that Dr. Kris Box agrees that our schools have strong COVID-19 Plans to Reopen," Mertz said.

According to Yoder, the commissioners applied some pressure to Mertz to have the decision to start the year with e-learning changed. He said the commissioners were surprised by Mertz's decision and received many phone calls from upset constituents.

"All three commissioners have talked with all the superintendents, we've had conversations with Dr. Mertz, we've had conversations with the state," he said. 

Yoder and the other commissioners would like to see a decision-making process that is more transparent than it has been in the past week, he said. That way, parents, teachers and administrators will know what the factors that go into these decisions are.

The Health Department never made a public announcement about pushing back in-person education, but the substance of the Thursday meeting was shared by some schools.

Though some of those residents tried to get the attention of Mertz by protesting outside the Health Department building in Elkhart, Mertz might not have seen them. As a safety precaution, Yoder said Mertz had been asked to work from home Friday. The commissioners later decided to close the building for the week at 3 p.m.

Some residents at the protest and on social media say they have lost their confidence in Mertz. That sentiment is not shared by Yoder.

"I understand that perspective, but the commissioners work with her every day, and we understand a little bit more about what's going on in the background. The general public is just seeing these announcements and the orders and are not fully aware of the complicating factors that are going on in the background. So yeah, I have confidence," Yoder said.

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus

(24) comments

sidearm

I know about losing a child Joe, buried my 16 year old daughter from a car wreck in 1994, feels like yesterday. Let’s ban cars, and kill all the deer like the one she swerved to miss. More children will die from the flu this year than Covid, a lot more. Stay in the basement.

Joe King

Apples v oranges....cars And deers aren’t contagious last time I checked... we are in a pandemic. Act like it. The world mocks USA. They got it together...trump did not. Over 160'000 dead..and you think we should go back like normal...you think this is a hoax?

sidearm

Actually Joe I don’t care what the world thinks of us, they all want to come here anyway. You a fear monger in for a political reason and I find that offensive. My point about cars and deer is that you can’t ever guarantee safety, even in your own basement. TRUMP 2020

Joe King

Everyone wants to come here? May want to rethink that...over 160,000 dead, 100,000 kids tested positive in the last 2 weeks....this is real...its a pandemic...act like it.

sidearm

Yes Joe I do know. I remember Obama quit testing when he faced one, didn’t want to look bad,

Joe King

Ha,ha,ha..Obama..what about her emails and pizza gate? Benghazi! The difference is Obama led us out of a Pandemic..Trump led us right into one and doesn’t care over 1000 Americans are dying each day...it is what it is...That’s what he said....the republicans affinity for ignoring science and data has led us down this road and it isn’t getting better...own it sidearm

sidearm

No, he didn’t lead us out of it, people died and pandemic went away. You will not ever be totally safe from everything. People die, we all will. Only difference is how well we live. You choose to hunker down in your basement while I choose to live life to the fullest. I feel really sorry for you Joe.

Joe King

oh sidearm.....yes..lets bring Obama into Trump's mess...because you know...you have nothing else to defend trump with? We see thru it...the world see's thru it.... Remember that time when over 160,000 Americans dies because Obama thought a pandemic was a hoax? Yeah.....neither do I...

Joe King

Obama...ha....he is to blame for this now? Can defend trump so you think bringing up Obama or Hilary or Benghazi will help? Makes you look foolish....try to stay on tract with how trump failed us all...how he thinks it will magically disappear...the rest of the world got their act together...we did not...time for a change...

John Good

We should always base our health decisions based on posts by conspiracy loons and popular opinion.

John Good

Yea. Lets see the proof that none of the schools around here will never have to worry about Teachers, staff or kids coming down with COVID-19. That if they did 1% won't die. That no one who gets C-19 will have any life long medical side effects that will shorten their life spans. That the conspiracy loonies health care information is more accurate then leading medical hospitals,

sidearm

I believe the American pediatricians who say that children are safer going back to school than not. I also take my personal doctors advice and live my life to the fullest. Do you realize that beacon in Elkhart has never used their back up Covid 19 unit and have very few patients in intensive care. Believe what you want but don’t belittle me for my personal beliefs.

sidearm

Oh boy, another left wing sheep. Welcome to Joe’s flock, No one can promise there won’t be cases, not a huge issue for kids. They have more of a chance to get run over by the bus than dying from Covid. In the Dem run cites a much better chance of being a victim of gang violence. No one can promise you safety So take a chance and live your life, ignore the fear monger in crowd.

Joe King

So sidearm...not a huge issue? Tell that to the parents of kids already lost due to the covid 19 virus....Not a huge issue? How many kids need to die or get sick and have long term side affects to make it a huge issue.... You probably say only a few kids are killed each year due to gun violence in schools so we don't need to due anything.....let me guess, Sandyhook was a hoax or not a huge issue either? Let me clue you in...any loss of kids is huge....wow....I think I now feel sorry for you now....

fire111

Joe my friend is off to the races again! He lives a very terrible fearful life! From the American Academy of Pediatrics Joe....children with Covid are 0%-0.3 % fatal. That figure Joe is from the information from 43 states and NYC! Here is a much more deadly fact Joe! Do ya know how many aborted children die? ALL of THEM Joe. And how about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? 2300 deaths a year in the US. And 6 of the 9 causes are preventable! And whose fault was that Sandyhook massacre? The lunatic mother was at fault. She bought the mentally challenged child REAL firearms to play with. So he killed her and many more!

Leeet

Believe what you want but don’t belittle me for my personal beliefs.

sidearm

sidearm Aug 9, 2020 9:20pm

Oh boy, another left wing sheep. Welcome to Joe’s flock

SanFran Kid

Southern Elkhart County Republicans control everthing in this county

Joe King

Well this decision should make every body feel safe....what are the odds? Which school closes first? Which teacher? Which student and where? Look at the rest of the schools that have opened..they are dropping like flies.... ____ tested positive, _____ members on the football team,. My thoughts and prayers to the students and teachers....livelihood over life.... what pandemic?

sidearm

I’m sure they appreciate your prayers Joe but they want and need a return to normal. I doubt that you have children affected by this but the people who protested do. Peacefully protested I might add with no violence, graffiti and no trash left behind for the city to clean up. What a novel idea.

Day cares have been open all summer, a large one at the church up the hill from me. I don’t think they had any issues with either children or staff.

Joe King

Nice shout out to the BLM movement....your racial words were not unnoticed to your white friends....

Everyone wants it to be normal...that should go without saying...but wanting and wishing doesn’t cure a pandemic...you do know what a pandemic is? Right? On the 2nd day of highest testing posited cases in a row, the health officer reverses her decision? Because they don’t live here? But they just tested here? Good thing the virus knows only to stay where you live...

The photos of the parents and kids proves the point that people are not taking this seriously and schools should remained closed...all close together, not all wearing masks....yea, they just proved why it should stay closed... Republicans want livelihood over lives. This is going to make the fall and winter surge even worse....why are they in such denial of science and facts? Thought and prayers teachers and support staff...

FlyNavy

I don't know if the Health Officer for the county is elected or appointed, but this one needs to leave and go work at IHOP where flip flopping skills are rewarded making pancakes. I'm not sure which decision is the correct one as time will tell, but she doesn't have any credibility remaining.

fire111

Appointed Fly appointed!

FlyNavy

Thanks, Fire, I looked and couldn't find anything about an election. Not sure who appoints the Health Officer. I'm guessing the county commissioners, but perhaps it is from the state level. Whoever it is needs a redo on the appointment. This one has flip flopped so many times that she is at least bound to be correct on at least one of her decisions! It's like a broken watch being right twice a day.

Leeet

"The people have spoken".....let's see how long schools stay open and how much LONGER they will be shut down before the Holidays.........

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