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Gary schools to close buildings as COVID-19 cases continue to climb across Region
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Gary schools to close buildings as COVID-19 cases continue to climb across Region

food distribution at Gary West Side

Elizabeth Summers, center, distributes meals in April at West Side Leadership Academy. A fleet of Gary Community School Corp. buses delivered meals to two dozen locations across the city while students continued remote learning through the end of the 2019-20 school year.

GARY — The Gary Community School Corp. is closing its buildings in light of growing reports of COVID-19 across the Region.

The school corporation announced Wednesday that effective Nov. 16 only essential administrative and IT staff will be allowed in Gary district buildings to facilitate technical assistance for teachers, students and parents.

The Gary Community School Corp. has been operating entirely with virtual learning for students since the start of the school year.

However, teachers have been reporting to school buildings to lead instruction from their Gary classrooms.

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"Our team made this decision out of concern for the safety of our teachers and staff who have been coming into our buildings three days a week to deliver instruction," Gary Community School Corp. Manager Paige McNulty said in a provided statement. "Until it is deemed safe by health officials, our buildings will remain closed, and we will continue with our virtual learning platform remotely."

Gary schools spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington said the district made its decision based on the rise of COVID-19 cases regionally and nationally, and not due to any specific cases in the Gary district.

Lake County's seven-day positivity rate among unique individuals has risen to 22% for the period Oct. 29 to Nov. 4, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Whittington said the district is not sharing data at this time specific to Gary schools about confirmed cases or individuals quarantined due to coronavirus exposure.

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Gary schools will continue offering the twice weekly food distribution service, conducted outside of schools and in designated outdoor locations across the city.

More information on meal distribution locations and pick-up times is available on the district's website at garycsc.k12.in.us.

Gary Area Career Center classes, offered on a hybrid schedule, will continue in person, Whittington said.

The Gary schools announcement comes as several districts across the Region have announced changes to learning plans, with some suspending in-person instruction until December or the end of the calendar year due to staffing challenges and an increasing number of student and teacher quarantines.

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Gary schools, which was one of the first Northwest Indiana districts to announce plans to start its school year virtually, has set no target dates for returning teachers and students to in-person instruction.

District leaders have said they will work with local health officials to make a determination on when it is safe to return to school buildings.

"It’s obvious we're taking the lead by not having students come in from start of school year," Whittington said. "It's probably the best decision given the return of the increase in cases."

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