Some students heading back to classrooms full time

Clark-Pleasant staff and students at the middle and high schools are returning to classrooms today full time, for the first time in months.

Middle and high school students in five of the county’s six public school districts have been going to school two days a week on alternating schedules, referred to as a hybrid model, since fall. The hybrid model has been in place at all school districts except Edinburgh schools since November, when surging COVID-19 cases and a heightened positivity rate first put Johnson County in “orange,” according to the state’s color-coded metrics, indicating an increased level of virus spread.

The decision to reopen classrooms full time at Clark-Pleasant schools was based on county vaccination data as well as a declining positivity rate, said Patrick Spray, superintendent.

Almost 20,000 Johnson County residents have gotten their first vaccine dose — about 12% of the population. Almost 9,400 people — about 6% of the county’s population — have gotten both shots and are fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, according to Indiana State Department of Health data. The county’s 7-day positivity rate on Tuesday was 5.3%.

“Dr. (Craig) Moorman and the Johnson County Health Department are doing a great job of getting these doses into the arms of citizens here in Johnson County,” Spray said in a video post. “Also, we’re seeing rates of positivity each week, and we’re nearing where we were in October 2020. That’s what led to the decision to bring students at the middle school and high school out of the hybrid model beginning (this week) and into in-person learning five days a week.”

With the county’s number of weekly cases dropping to less than 200 per 100,000 residents, it is headed back to “yellow” from “orange” on the state’s color-coded map that is used to determine capacities, gathering limits and how schools should operate. If the county remains in “yellow” for another week, gathering limits will also ease up.

School administrators at Center Grove, Franklin, Greenwood and Indian Creek schools were all awaiting a conference call today with Moorman, the county’s health officer, before making any decisions that would deviate from the hybrid model, school officials at all four districts said.

The calls are expected to follow the state health department’s weekly update of its color-coded map at noon today.

With safe policies and procedures in place, schools should be able to conduct classes in-person five days a week safely, said Betsy Swearingen, director of the Johnson County Health Department.

“I think we would just take the guidance set out by the state and continue to support that,” Swearingen said. “If schools could still follow the same policies and procedures, I don’t know why they couldn’t open full time.”