Close the schools? Health department says no, districts say yes
GOSHEN, Ind. – All public school districts in Elkhart County announced school closings through the rest of the month Saturday.
This comes after a press conference at the county's administration building with representatives from all major towns and hospitals in Elkhart County briefed the public of its current objectives in handling the novel coronavirus pandemic.
”We will need to think differently about how we live our lives,” Mayor of Goshen Jeremy Stutsman said.
“We will need to give up some of our routines so that we can navigate this.”
Elkhart Mayor Rob Roberson added, “This situation is changing quickly. We will be vigilant with giving you the most updated information available.”
But the measures to protect those most vulnerable with faster coronavirus test results - the county admits - are not yet available.
“The health department has some testing they very strictly control,” Dr. Donald Jansen of Elkhart General Hospital said.
“They’ve set guidelines which we are all following of who can get tested. We’re fortunate that some of our system has some other testing done, but that would be done through the phone call to see if someone would meet that level of concern. Then that can be sent off. That takes about 3 to 5 days to get results back.”
But probably most surprising was county officials coming out against school closings.
“It is not recommended that we close,” Elkhart County Health Officer Lydia Mertz said.
“The Indiana State Department of Health is not recommending that for us. The Centers for Disease Control guidelines do not recommend that for our situation, so we really them need to stay open.”
But school leaders have since backed away from that advice.
Both Elkhart Community Schools and Wa-Nee Community Schools posted to Facebook that they’ll be open only on Monday, have doors open only for faculty on Tuesday, then shut down until early April.
Goshen Community Schools decided to close its doors to students right away - converting all classes to eLearning.
Superintendent for Wa-Nee Schools Scot Croner told ABC 57 the switch will not be easy.
“We have been planning for the need to have to close at some point in time the past week,” Croner said.
“Our staff and our teachers have done an amazing job getting things ready to go. We’re not a school district that does eLearning right now so this is really uncharted water for them.”