Elwood parents grapple with decisions on schools reopening

EJSHS sat empty late Tuesday afternoon, two days before children return to classes for the first time since March.

By STEVEN MURREY

With school set to start Thursday, parents have taken to social media to express their opinions on Elwood’s reopening. What normally would be a non-issue has become the subject of controversy amid a global pandemic.

A poll conducted online over the weekend asked Elwood parents which method of schooling they were planning to utilize. Out of 142 responses, 59 percent said their children would utilize the traditional classroom option. 30 percent of parents surveyed said they planned on using the school’s eLearning option. Another nine percent said they planned to home school or to send their children to the Indiana Connections Academy, which offers online schooling for Hoosier students.

Conversely, when asked how they felt about the decision to resume in-person schooling, 51.8 percent of the 79 respondents said they strongly disagreed with the decision to reopen schools. Roughly 23 percent of parents said they strongly agreed with the decision to send kids back, and 25 percent of respondents said they were neutral or that they supported whatever made parents feel safest.

Elwood schools will be the first in the county to return to classrooms, and teachers went back to school Tuesday. This comes a day after Superintendent Dr. Joe Brown announced that a staff member had tested positive for the coronavirus, and would be self quarantining for 14 days.

Travis Box said he and his family moved to Elwood in June of 2019. Box said his family loves Elwood, with one child entering the tenth grade and another entering sixth grade.

“Based on infection rates and the availability of a vaccine and effective treatment plans, what’s changed between now and March,” Box asked.

Box expressed dissatisfaction with the news of a positive test result and the school corporation’s plan to move forward with opening schools as scheduled.

“There have been studies that say kids don’t get it as bad as adults do, but the kids don’t live alone,” he said. “They go home to their parents…”

Box said his family had already settled on the eLearning option, but Brown’s announcement reaffirmed their decision.

“They need to get the politics out of it and start listening to the scientists, and that’s just all there is to it,” said Box.

“The number one thing I’d like to express is this: We realize that handling all of this has been complete chaos, and we have an extremely large amount of compassion for the school staff who are working their butts off trying to find a way to handle this, but there’s no way under any circumstances right now that it is safe for anyone to send their kids back,” Box said.

“Best case scenario, kids don’t really get sick at all. They just bring it home. How do you think a 10-year-old is psychologically going to handle the fact that they killed their parents or their grandma?”

“I think people are so hung up on getting things back to normal that they’d rather have ‘normal’ than ‘healthy,'” Box said.

Elizabeth Johns and her husband Andrew have decided to utilize eLearning options for their daughter, who is set to start kindergarten. She said her child had breathing issues as a baby that she has outgrown. Still, she said they do not want to take chances.

“I don’t feel that the schools have done everything they could to protect the children,” Johns said. “Covid is in Elwood, and they have chosen to keep everything on schedule versus pushing back the start date.”

She also said she was dissatisfied with the communications from the school, saying it has not done enough for parents with a brand new student.

“The school should have extended the opening date or gone to eLearning only,” she said. “I really think they have dropped the ball.”

Jodi Alexander, a staff member at Elwood Elementary and a mother of three, said she’s feeling confident about her children returning to school. She feared that keeping them home would cause kids to fall behind. Her oldest child is starting the sixth grade, her middle child will be in the fifth grade, and her youngest is starting second grade.

“I worry about their health, but I feel that the school is doing what they need to to ensure their health and safety as best they can,” Alexander said.

She also said the schools are doing a good job of providing necessities to children.

“They’re providing water bottles, lanyards to put their masks on if they need it, all of the stuff.”

Alexander said this is particularly helpful, given the poverty levels in Elwood.

“Seeing the roadmap and how seriously they were taking this, with all the disinfectant measures and things like that, I was sure I’d send them back,” she added.

“I’m concerned about their health, but I feel with all the statistics, they should go back to school.”

On a Facebook post soliciting feedback for this article, Jamie Harris said her child would be returning to school for his senior year.

“I am a little concerned, but I do see kids running around in big groups all the time without masks so I am just praying he will be safe,” Harris wrote.

Leta Rexford said her child would also return to school.

“I feel with eLearning she might fall behind,” Rexford wrote. “I’m concerned but feel this is what is right for my child. She will continue to wear her mask and wash her hands and pray God keeps her safe.”

In a statement issued to the Call-Leader Monday, Brown said the schools will continue to follow Roadmap Back to School for Families document to ensure the safety of students and staff.

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