ELKHART — Students in all schools in Elkhart County will begin the year with online learning, based on a recommendation from county health officials, in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Sports also would be suspended, one official said.
The announcement was made in a social media post from Goshen Community Schools on Thursday afternoon and confirmed by Elkhart Community Schools Superintendent Steve Thalheimer, who said the Health Department planned to issue a statement later.
The revelation – which comes less than a week after the health department announced its approval of hybrid in-class and remote-learning back-to-school plans – was made following a phone conference earlier Thursday among health officials and all the public-school superintendents in the county.
“After updates and discussion, and upon the recommendation of Dr. Lydia Mertz, ECHD Health Officer, it has been determined that the safest course of action for all Elkhart County schools is to begin the school year with online learning for all students,” the Goshen Schools post said. “Online learning will continue through September 28, 2020, unless pandemic conditions improve significantly enough to safely reopen schools.”
Concord Superintendent Dan Funston, in a note to parents and teachers, said other programs also would be affected.
“Additionally, all athletics, extracurricular and co-curricular activities have been suspended for the time being,” he said.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Elkhart County had been trending down since mid-July but began to rise again in recent days. Thirty-six new cases in the county were reported by the Indiana State Department of Health on Thursday and one additional death, bringing the number of cases to 4,713 and the number of related deaths to 80.
The closely watched positive test rate also has been climbing, according to state health officials. A seven-day average for the county was up to 9.7 percent after falling to a low of 7.5 percent on July 21.
At least 31 Indiana school districts have told the Indiana Department of Education that they’re relying only on virtual instruction at least to start the year.
Of the schools in the state that have resumed in-person instruction, at least a dozen have reported students or teachers testing positive for the coronavirus since the school year started.
Goshen Schools will begin school Aug. 11, one day later than scheduled to give everyone an additional day for preparation. Because of the one day delay in the start date, Goshen Schools will use the Friday before President’s Day, Jan. 15, as a school day, according to the post.