As of the end of the school day March 13, all Allen County public school systems closed to students until at least April 13.
Officials from Northwest Allen County Schools, Southwest Allen County Schools, East Allen County Schools and Fort Wayne Community Schools made the announcement March 13 after meeting with each other and consulting the Allen County Department of Health. All four school systems have a weeklong pre-scheduled spring break within the time when the schools will be closed.
Southwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Phil Downs compared this closing to the Blizzard of ‘78, when schools were closed for 13 days. If school reopens April 13 as expected, SACS students will only have missed 13 days of school, when days off for spring break and Good Friday are factored in.
Superintendent Dr. Chris Hensel of Northwest Allen County Schools said staff will still report to work March 16-17 to work out details of e-learning, which is basically conducting school remotely over the internet.
Marilyn Hissong, East Allen County Schools superintendent, said the schools will do some e-learning and will also take advantage of the 20-day waiver Gov. Eric Holcomb is giving schools from the required 180 instructional days. A schedule is posted on EACS’ website, https://www.eacs.k12.in.us/.
Charles Cammack Jr., chief operating officer of Fort Wayne Community Schools, said their focus will be “making sure seniors complete their course of instruction” so they can graduate.
Beyond academics, schools and the community must be aware of the ramifications of keeping kids out of school for a significant length of time, school officials said. Working parents of elementary school children, in particular, will have to make child care arrangements to watch their children, or else stay home, possibly unpaid, or even face the prospect of being fired if they don’t show up to work.
Paying for childcare or going without a paycheck for a couple of weeks for those whose budgets are already tight could throw a family into a crisis. Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan said community leaders are aware of this, so the Health Department has put up a survey on its website to gauge how much help people could need.
She encourages people to fill out the online survey so philanthropic groups can start looking at ways to help.
The website is: https://www.research.net/r/ACHDCOVID19 and your responses are anonymous.
Another big concern for the districts is getting school lunches to the students on the reduced-price or free lunch program. For some students, that may be the only food they get all day. Hissong said the free and reduced-price lunches will be delivered to the same sites where the summer lunch programs are available. Information will be provided on the EACS website.
NACS and SACS also plan to continue providing free- or reduced-price lunches to students who qualify during the closure. Details remain to be worked out.
With about 29,500 students, FWCS is much larger than the other three systems, which have anywhere from about 7,200 to 10,000 students each. So the logistics of figuring out how to get those free lunches distributed to students while school is closed are still being worked out, Cammack said. Likewise, the district doesn’t do e-learning, but they are trying to figure out a way to provide instruction for students on those COVID-19 related days off.
All Wabash County school corporations have made the decision to suspend in-person classes until the conclusion of spring break on April 13.
Concordia Lutheran High School will shift away from face-to-face instruction and move to home-based remote learning from March 16 through April 10.
The Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has announced the closing of all its 43 Catholic Schools within the 14-county service area effective March 16 for a minimum of three weeks. A set date has not been established for the re-opening of the schools. Additionally, all after-school and extracurricular activities are suspended until further notice.