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Hammond schools to require masks, continue sports suspension as district prepares for reopening
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Hammond schools to require masks, continue sports suspension as district prepares for reopening

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STOCK - Hammond Clark High School

Hammond Clark High School

HAMMOND — Masks will be required and sports delayed this fall under actions taken Tuesday night by the School City of Hammond Board of Trustees.

School board members approved a framework for reopening school in the 2019-20 school year, including options for in-person and online learning.

The framework approved Tuesday includes three color-coded phases for operations based on "low," "minimal to moderate" and "substantial" COVID-19 spread in a school community.

Under low spread, or the school city's Green stage, students may learn in person or online on a traditional school schedule. At the district's Yellow stage, the school city will adopt hybrid scheduling with alternating groups of students attending school in person two days a week, and at the Red stage, all students will move to e-learning.

School City of Hammond, EC Central suspend prep sports activities due to COVID-19

The board also approved a districtwide mask resolution requiring all students, staff and visitors to wear a mask unless otherwise directed. All students will be provided one cloth mask. The district is recommending students who do not wish to wear a face covering pursue e-learning.

School city administration first presented its plan for reopening schools in a public work session last week. Two days later the school city joined a number of Region districts halting prep sports practices after five athletes with ties to Hammond sports were found positive for coronavirus.

The Hammond school board agreed to continue its suspension of summer conditioning until the board can reevaluate continuation of the fall sports season in the board's next regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 4, a day after the IHSAA girls golf season is scheduled to begin. Other fall sports start competition later in August.

Multiple parents expressed their concern for reopening school buildings for academics in the fall semester.

"Parents have good reason to be cautious about blindly sending their kids back to school, especially given the COVID-19 spikes and disproportionate Black deaths from COVID-19," said Nancy Cobb, a Hammond resident reading a statement on behalf of the Hammond chapter of the NAACP.

Cindy Murphy, a former school board member, asked the board to add specific numbers for what coronavirus rates will trigger a change between phases.

"You need metrics that are a lot stronger for what they are for when you will and will not open," Murphy said. "You need to have numbers on there."

Dawn Greene, assistant superintendent of operations in the school city, said administrators have asked local health officials for greater direction on the "levels of spread" and what number of cases should dictate changes in school reopening, but those specific numbers have not been shared.

Hammond shares options for in person, remote learning in 2020-21 school year

Superintendent Scott Miller stressed the plan accepted Tuesday is fluid and that he would not reopen schools for in-person learning based on current positivity rates in Lake County, but that could change before the district's scheduled start date of Aug. 19.

"The rates are higher now than when we closed," Miller said, referencing statewide school closures this March. "But, we will not say definitively tonight whether students will start on Aug. 19. That will come at our Aug. 4 meeting."

Until a decision is made in that meeting, parents will be allowed to opt into e-learning during registration, which remains open through the end of this month. More information on Hammond's plan for the 2019-20 school year is available on the school city website at hammond.k12.in.us.

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