Indiana school temporarily closes after positive virus test

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A central Indiana school temporarily shut down two days after opening because at least one staff member tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the latest school in the state to have to deal with positive cases soon after welcoming students back to the classroom.

Elwood Junior Senior High School will remain closed this week so that it can get a deep cleaning, Superintendent Joe Brown said Monday. The district about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northeast of Indianapolis conducted coronavirus testing prior to school starting July 30 and “multiple staff” came back positive for the virus.

A staff member at the junior-senior high school and at least one other staff member in the district tested positive, Brown said. He declined to disclose exactly where or how many staff members across the district have tested positive.

Those with positive tests were not in close contact with students, Brown said, but they did have contact with other faculty and staff at the school. Those individuals are now quarantining. As a precaution, the district moved classes online this week for grades 7-12. In-person instruction is expected to return again Aug. 10.

The reopening plan was working, but the district saw “more positive cases from staff members than we anticipated,” Brown wrote in a letter to parents.

“We want to keep our buildings open during the pandemic,” Brown said. “However, the safety of students and staff remain our top priority.”

According to that plan, each school building in the district will be closed on Wednesdays throughout August for cleanings due to the coronavirus pandemic. On those days, instruction will be virtual. Athletic programs will continue.

Meanwhile, a student at New Palestine High School, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Indianapolis, attended the first day back to classes Monday after testing positive for the coronavirus. A doctor gave the student the wrong date for when the student could begin school, said district spokesperson Wes Anderson.

“That student came out of quarantine when they should not have, and as a result, they were in our building today,” Anderson told The Associated Press.

The student was wearing a mask and was isolated after the school was told by the Hancock County Health Department on Monday of the positive test result. Anderson said it's unclear if the student or the student's family was aware of the positive test result before school began.

A "small number of students” considered to be close contacts of the infected one were removed from class early Monday and will quarantine outside of school for two weeks, Anderson said. No staff members were determined to have had close contact with the infected student.

Meanwhile, a New Palestine High School football player tested positive days before the school was set to open, Southern Hancock schools confirmed Saturday.

Parents and caregivers of football players at an Indianapolis high school have additionally been told to monitor their children after a player at Warren Central tested positive for the virus.

The Warren Township school district told those who had been in close contact with the student to quarantine for 14 days. Classes start Thursday at Warren Central, which has 3,677 students and 178 full-time teachers.

District students in grades 6-12 will participate in an in-person and virtual alternating day schedule, according to the district’s reopening plan. A completely virtual option is also offered.

Positive virus tests have been reported in other Indiana school districts.

LaPorte High School has suspended boys’ football, wrestling and tennis team activities due to a positive test in both the tennis and football program.

Greenfield-Central schools confirmed Thursday night that a student tested positive for the virus on the first day of school. Avon Community schools said Thursday that it learned a high school staff member tested positive for COVID-19. That person had not been at the school during the week or in close contact with any employees or students, according to a district spokesperson.

Two students from Greater Clark County Schools in southern Indiana also tested positive for the coronavirus after the first week of school. In the neighboring Lanesville Community Schools district, four students from Lanesville Junior-Senior High School have tested positive and an additional 50 have been quarantined since it opened schools on Wednesday. The school district held a virtual learning day on Monday and classes will resume in-person Tuesday.

In Central Indiana, more than a dozen other school districts are slated to reopen this week. Some will start the new academic year with only virtual classes, while the majority of others are still planning to offer students an in-person option.

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Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.”