Officials say things began as smoothly as possible for students who headed back to their classrooms at Peru Community Schools for the first time since March.
“We’ve had a decent start,” Peru Superintendent Sam Watkins told the Tribune on Thursday.
That was the first day of the new school year and the first time students have been in the buildings for instruction since they were sent home in March during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak here.
It also marked the culmination of months and weeks of planning among officials as they wrestled with guidelines and recommendations about how to get kids back in the buildings safely as cases of the disease continue to rise across the state.
Peru High School Principal Paul Frye said that students were adapting well.
“I think they are glad to be back,” he said. “And we are certainly glad to see them back.”
They are not all back in the buildings though.
Part of the corporation’s reopening plan allowed parents to opt for what Watkins called a “temporary virtual option.”
As of Thursday, 242 students had chosen the option, up significantly from a little more than a week ago and around 12 percent of the student population that sits around 1,900.
“We were hovering around 100 then we shot up,” Watkins said.
Peru is the second school corporation in the county to reopen. Maconaquah students reported to classes on Aug. 3.
“It has been an exhausting summer trying to work through pages of guidelines and rules that would allow us to get our students back on campus,” Maconaquah Superintendent James Callane said in a release from his corporation earlier this week. “We knew there would be no perfect way to go about it, but through collaboration with several entities we were able to put together a solid plan to open back up. This year looks different, that’s for sure, but being here is so important for our kids and we are so happy to have them back.”
North Miami Students are due back on Aug. 11.
On Wednesday, Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box told Hoosiers that she “continue(s) to believe that our schools can safely reopen by wearing masks, practicing social distancing and good hand washing” as well as “cohorting” students and ensuring that those who are sick stay home.
Earlier in the week The Associated Press reported that Elwood Junior Senior High School in Central Indiana closed down for a week just two days after reopening because at least one staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
The district about 35 miles northeast of Indianapolis conducted coronavirus testing prior to school starting July 30 and “multiple staff” came back positive for the virus, according to the report.
Watkins told the Tribune on Thursday that if something like that should happen in Peru he could call an emergency School Board meeting to seek approval to close a classroom or building, depending on the situation.
Watkins said he hopes that it doesn’t come to that but that he and others will be watching the situation in the buildings closely.
“We are going to take it day by day, case by case,” he said.