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School, city officials plan event for PHS grads

Though Peru Community Schools have officially opted to move this year’s graduation ceremony, school and city officials are asking that residents make an effort to honor the Class of 2020 with a special event on the night they would have walked for their diplomas.

Peru High School Principal Paul Frye said he doesn’t want to call the event a “parade,” but the seniors are going to have an opportunity to roll collectively down Main Street and Broadway, with a police escort on May 29 at 7 p.m.

“This had been in the works,” Frye told the Tribune on Thursday. “Luckily enough the Mayor and the Chief of Police worked with me.”

Frye said he was waiting to officially announce plans until the Peru School Board made its official decision to postpone this year’s graduation ceremony until later in the summer.

They did that at their Monday night meeting, voting to hold it on July 31.

That was one of three dates that Peru Superintendent Sam Watkins said earlier this month that he planned to present to the Board as they looked for ways to hold a ceremony amid health concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Maconaquah and North Miami school corporations have already announced they will hold their ceremonies on July 11 and July 12 respectively.

Peru Mayor Miles Hewitt said Thursday he was happy to have the city police department help out with this month’s event.

“These kids have worked hard to get that far,” he said.

In a personal message, posted to the city’s Facebook page, Hewitt congratulated seniors from all three schools.

“Due to the COVID-19 virus a lot of graduation ceremonies were delayed or postponed, however this does not take away from the fact of how hard you have worked and how proud all your family and friends are of your achievements,” he wrote, in part. “May all your dreams come true and again CONGRATULATIONS!”

Seniors who are interested in participating in the drive through town are asked to gather at the old K-Mart parking lot on West Main Street around 6:45 p.m. on May 29.

Police will then lead the group up Main Street to South Broadway, toward the high school, where they will then make a lap as teachers and staff stand around the school to cheer and extend wishes.

Hewitt and Frye both encouraged members of the public to take part along the route as well. Because of social distancing guidelines and concerns about space, Frye asked that people not congregate at the high school.

“But if they want to stop out on Main or Broadway they could also wave and wish them well,” he said.


As sunny weather returns and coronavirus restrictions ease, downtown Peru will likely look a little brighter to Miami County residents.

“We are really working hard on sprucing things up,” Miami County Chamber Commerce President Sandy Chittum told the Tribune on Thursday.

Chittum was talking about recent work done to plant new flowers in, and remulch, what she calls the “street scape beds” that line the sidewalks of downtown as well as the hanging of new “patriotic” banners on city lamp posts.

Such work throughout downtown is a regular effort, and though the recent work comes as businesses and activities slowly start coming back following nearly two months of lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, Chittum said she thinks people are tired of hearing that kind of talk.

The work, she said, just as much marks the increased activity downtown sees every spring.

“Our farmer’s market starts on June 6,” she said, offering one example.

This year, the market is going to be held on Fifth Street, between Broadway and Court Street. That will give more room for people to be spread out, a likely welcome consideration with pandemic concerns lingering.

But those concerns, Chittum said, won’t bring many other changes to the market. Though special precautions will be taken, the offerings will remain the same.

“We know what we need to do,” she said. “We can have vegetables and flowers, we are going to have it all.”

“It’s going to be a great summer here.”

Chittum said the work downtown, including new plantings a the courthouse, was a group effort.

Peru Utilities helped with installing the banners, which are sponsored by McClure’s Orchard and Winery at the Tollhouse.

McClure’s was also part of the “collaboration” that helped with planting at the courthouse, Chittum said. Others included the City of Peru, Parks and Recreation, Garden Gate Greenhouse, Integrity Landscapes, with lunch provided by My Pizza My Way.

Colleges plan fall opening, but campuses won't look the same

Growing numbers of U.S. colleges are pledging to reopen this fall, with dramatic changes to campus life to keep the coronavirus at bay. Big lectures will be a thing of the past. Dorms will will be nowhere near capacity. Students will face mandatory virus testing. And at some smaller schools, students may be barred from leaving campus.

Even as some universities abandon hope of in-person instruction next semester, citing concerns from public health officials, dozens are announcing plans to welcome students back in August. They acknowledge that an outbreak could force classes back online, but many of their leaders say the financial and political pressures to reopen are too large to ignore.

At West Virginia University, President E. Gordon Gee said students don’t want to wait for a vaccine, and the school can’t afford to.

“If it was simply based on science, we would keep everything shut down until we have a vaccine and until it’s working. But I don’t feel that that’s feasible, either economically or socially, and certainly not educationally,” Gee said. “We will open, but it will be different.”

Colleges planning to reopen include Purdue University, Texas A&M University, the University of Notre Dame and statewide systems in Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire and elsewhere. Some plan to make decisions this summer, including Princeton University, where officials say it’s too soon to make a call.

The California State University system, by contrast, has said its 23 campuses will stay mostly online this fall, citing predictions of a virus resurgence later this year. Others including the University of South Carolina, Rice and Creighton universities plan to bring students back but end the term early, before Thanksgiving, anticipating a second wave could hit later in the fall.

President Donald Trump has encouraged schools to reopen despite concerns from his top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Speaking at a Senate hearing last week, Fauci said it would be “a bit of a bridge too far” to expect a vaccine before the fall. Trump countered that the comment was “not an acceptable answer.”

New guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week say colleges should work with state and local officials to decide how to reopen. But the agency suggests a range of safety measures for campuses, saying they should keep common spaces closed if possible, hold smaller classes in larger rooms, and install plastic barriers in areas where it’s hard to stay apart.

In other countries emerging from lockdown, universities have been slow to reopen. Primary schools in France were allowed to reopen earlier this month, but universities are expected to remain closed through the summer. Universities in New Zealand have been granted permission to reopen, but most say they plan to stay online until July or later.

Britain’s Cambridge University announced Wednesday that all in-person lectures will be canceled through the 2020-21 academic year because of the pandemic.

In the U.S., colleges that plan to reopen have told students to expect strict social distancing measures, including mandatory use of face masks. College leaders say widespread virus testing will be the linchpin to a safe reopening. At many schools, students who test positive would be placed in dorm rooms reserved as quarantine space.

But there are questions about schools’ ability to provide large numbers of tests. Some research universities say they have the lab equipment to analyze virus tests, but not enough swabs and testing chemicals. Smaller schools will need to hire companies to handle tests, likely at a significant cost.

In a call with 14 university leaders last week, Vice President Mike Pence pledged to help colleges ramp up testing operations. But some on the call said details, especially about funding, remain hazy.

Once students are back on campus, the primary goal will be to keep them spaced out, colleges say. Classroom desks will be arranged 6 feet apart. Class schedules may be staggered. Big lectures will be split up or moved online. Some colleges are discussing teaching certain classes outside or in tents.

A growing number of colleges say they will offer a “hybrid flex” model, in which classes are offered online and in person at the same time, and students can choose either option. Professors at some colleges will also be allowed to continue teaching remotely through video feeds projected in the classroom.

Most vexing for colleges, however, is the dilemma of dorm life. At some schools, suites meant for several students will be limited to one or two. Bathrooms shared by entire floors will be restricted to a handful of students. With only so much dorm space, some colleges have been scrambling to rent nearby apartments as overflow housing.

At Trinity College, a school of 2,000 in Hartford, Connecticut, officials hope to place every student in their own room. Staff members have been scouring campus with tape measures in recent weeks to make sure students will have space to stay 6 feet apart.

Boston University is exploring whether the housing problem can be solved by placing students into “family groups” that live together but have little social interaction with other groups. Robert Brown, the school’s president, said placing all students alone “may be overly isolating for students and lead to another set of problems.”

At Claremont McKenna College near Los Angeles, officials are wondering how their single dining hall will accommodate 900 students who buy meal plans. The school is weighing measures to restrict capacity in the hall, which may require students to eat in shifts or take their meals outside.

It’s just one way in which campus life will “not be the same as what we have grown so accustomed to,” said Hiram Chodosh, president of the college.

Hoping to keep the virus away, some smaller colleges are considering limits or even outright bans on travel in and out of campus. In a recent letter to students, Amherst College in Massachusetts said officials “may need to require that you limit your movement to on-campus locations only.”

At West Virginia, Gee said he’ll rely on students to police their own behavior. He argues that peer pressure is more effective “than a 76-year-old university president saying don’t do it.” Gee, known for his impromptu appearances at student activities on campus and off, said he will scale back this fall, much to his chagrin.

“It’s going to be a lot different for me, and I’m going to miss that,” Gee said. “But I view us as dancing with the coronavirus. This is going to be with us forever, even once we find a vaccine. We just need to learn how to manage it in a way that allows life to go on.”

Community Information

To help keep residents informed during the ongoing health emergency, this section is continuing to evolve.

Though many events have been canceled, some, like mobile food pantries and blood drives, will continue to take place. The top portion of this section will list such events and be updated daily. Cancellations and closures of various events, agencies and public buildings will be listed below those items.

Testing available

The state of Indiana, in a partnership with OptumServe Health, has opened a coronavirus testing site at the Indiana National Guard armory at 77 German St. in Peru. Individuals who are symptomatic or COVID-19 or close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 positive patients are eligible for testing. Residents will not be charged for testing and insurance is not required, but those with insurance are asked to bring information with them. For more information or to schedule a test, visit lhi.care/covidtesting or call 888-634-1116.

Events and information

The Peru Public Library has reopened to the public with social distancing guidelines and other precautions in place.

The United Way of Miami County is now accepting grant applications for money from a coronavirus relief fund made possible by the Lilly Endowment. Money from the $225,000 dollar fund is expected to paid out in three phases – for immediate relief to longterm recovery – and is targeted to help “human and social service nonprofits on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic.” To apply, visit the local United Way website at www.uwmiamip.org.

May 27

The Maconaquah School Board will meet at 6 p.m. on May 27 in the elementary school’s Group Room. Social distancing guidelines will be in place.

May 28

The Miami County Local Emergency Planning Committee will meet on May 28 at 4:30 p.m. at 78 McKinstry Avenue.

June 30

The Dukes Health Care Foundation of Miami County is accepting grant applications from organizations “that promote the health and well-being of the citizens of Miami County.” The deadline to apply is June 30. Application packets for tax-exempt organizations can be picked up at the Miami County Chamber of Commerce office at 13 E. Main St. Those with questions should contact John Claxton at 765-473-7189.

County reminds residents to update dog tags

Dog tags are available at the Miami County Courthouse, Room 107, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The fee is $5 per dog.

Residents can also mail payment to Miami County Courthouse, 25 N. Broadway, Room 107, Peru, IN 46970. They are asked to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope and tags will be mailed along with a receipt. Please make checks payable to Miami County Treasurer.

For questions, call 765-472-3901 Ext. 1860.

North Miami preschool and kindergarten registration opens

North Miami Community Schools is currently accepting online applications for both Little Warriors Preschool and kindergarten.

Little Warriors Preschool is certified through the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Child Care Developmental Fund and is Paths to Quality Level 3 Certified.

The school offers both full-day and half-day options. Half-day preschool is open to all 3-and 4-year-olds, and the full-day preschool is open to all 4-year-olds. Children must be 3 or 4 no later than Aug.1 of the current school year to enroll. Preschool is every Monday through Thursday, and tuition is and $35 per week for half-day or $60 per week for full-day.

The elementary is also registering students for kindergarten for the 2020-2021 school year. Registration for both programs can be found on the North Miami Elementary School site under “PK/K Registration Information.”

For questions, please contact the elementary school at 765-985-2155 on Monday or Tuesday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Cancellations and Closures

The Miami County YMCA is closed to the public. Y Transit and meal delivery is still operating. For assistance or questions call 765-472-1979.

The Peru Lions Club Cheer Club is halting visits due to visitation restrictions in place at area nursing homes.

To add something to this list send an email to jkeever@ perutribune.com.

Indiana plan keeping movie theaters, playgrounds closed

INDIANAPOLIS — Movie theaters and public playgrounds will remain closed in Indiana for at least three more weeks under revisions to the state’s coronavirus reopening plan signed by the governor Thursday. The state’s business and gathering restrictions are being further eased for most of the state beginning Friday.

The state health department Indiana’s total number of deaths among people with confirmed or presumed coronavirus infections has topped 1,900.

Restriction changes

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a new executive order for a second round of easing many restrictions that were first imposed under the statewide stay-at-home order that was imposed March 25.

The new order, which is in effect through June 13, allows social gatherings of up to 100 people and retail stores and malls to operate at 75 percent capacity. Gatherings have been limited to 25 people and stores to 50 percent capacity under the state’s first easing of restrictions that took effect May 4.

Gyms, fitness centers, community pools and campgrounds will also be allowed to open under rules limiting the number of people and for distancing and cleaning.

Holcomb’s plan announced earlier this month had targeted movie theaters and playgrounds for a late May reopening, but the revised plan delays theaters until at least June 14 and lists playgrounds as “to be determined.”

“We continue to remain vigilant about protecting Hoosiers’ health while taking responsible steps to further open our state’s economy,” Holcomb said in a statement.

The new order continues to limit restaurants to 50 percent capacity in dining rooms and summer youth camps can’t open until at least June 1. School buildings and grounds remain closed, as do bars, nightclubs and casinos.

Tougher local restrictions are still being allowed, with the new steps not taking effect until at least June 1 in Indianapolis, northwestern Indiana’s Lake County and rural northern Indiana’s Cass County, where a large coronavirus outbreak infected hundreds of Tyson meatpacking plant workers.

Virus deaths

The state’s 48 new confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported Thursday occurred as far back as May 2, increasing the total number of such deaths to 1,764, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

The state agency’s statistics also added one death for a total 149 people who have died from probable infections of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. That increases Indiana’s confirmed or presumed deaths to 1,913 since the first one was recorded on March 15.

Holcomb has cited a decline in the number of COVID-19-infected people hospitalized and the continued availability of intensive care unit beds to treat those most seriously ill for the state being able to further relax business and gathering restrictions.

The latest state statistics showed 410 COVID-19 patients were in the intensive care units of Indiana hospitals and that 39 percent of ICU beds remained available as of Wednesday. That’s 115 fewer coronavirus patients in those ICUs than on May 5, and 211 fewer than on April 23.

Unemployment grows

Indiana saw about 30,000 more people file for unemployment benefits last week as business struggles continue despite the easing of the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

Job losses have slowed in recent weeks, but roughly 670,000 people have sought jobless aid in Indiana over the past nine weeks since business closures swept across the country, the U.S. Department of Labor statistics said Thursday.

The number of initial unemployment applications submitted in Indiana last week was about the same as the week before and well below the 100,000-plus the state received for three straight weeks in late March and early April. Indiana was receiving fewer than 3,000 claims per week and had a 3.2 percent unemployment rate before the pandemic hit the country.