When Indianapolis high school senior Stanisha Fortson learned Thursday that her campus would be closed for the rest of the academic year, she was stunned. She will miss out on a long list of milestones: commencement, prom, senior breakfast. But what she’s most anxious about is whether she will be able to complete her nursing assistant certification.
“It’s really upsetting,” said Fortson, who plans to study nursing in college. Fortson is in a nursing assistant training program at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis Public Schools, and the prospect that students may not be able to earn licenses makes her feel “like we wasted our time.”
Indiana Superintendent for Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick announced on Thursday that classrooms would be closed for the rest of the year because coronavirus cases continue to rise quickly in Indiana. Schools and districts will offer some form of remote instruction, but it remains unclear what the coming weeks will be like for students, teachers, and families.
If seniors are on track to graduate, they will still earn diplomas, McCormick said. They will get credit for any classes they are currently enrolled in.
Senior Jessica Hatcher was relieved to find out that she would still get credits for her classes and be able to earn a diploma. And she said she understands why schools are closed. But she remains disappointed that she won’t be able to continue her classes in person.
“It’s really strange,” said Hatcher, who attends IPS’ Shortridge High School. “I feel almost cheated.”
While many education leaders agreed with the decision to keep school buildings closed for health and safety reasons, it’s a significant step that means students will miss about three months of in-person instruction — forcing districts to make huge changes to adapt. The academic ramifications will likely reverberate into next school year.
“This is sobering news,” IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said in a tweet, “but we will push forward together.”
Nathan Blevins, who teaches eighth-grade social studies at Longfellow Middle School in IPS, said that many of the families he spoke with after the closure are “taking this in stride.” But remote education will be challenging for educators and children.
“A lot of families, the parents have to work,” Blevins said. Since many of them cannot work from home, he added, “I think a lot of them are going to be juggling, ‘how do I go in to my shift, how do I complete my job and ensure that my student is being successful and completing their schoolwork online?’”
Some educators felt devastated by the news, even if they were bracing for the decision.
“In the back of our minds, we knew that it was probably coming,” said Mikayla Feetterer, a ninth-grade biology teacher at Shortridge. “But we didn’t want to acknowledge the thought that it was probably going to happen.”
She didn’t even get to say goodbye to her students before schools abruptly closed last month, she said Thursday. Now, she won’t be able to hug her students on the last day of school, and she won’t see them again until the fall.
On an Instagram account she created to keep in touch with her students, she took a survey: “Real talk, do you actually miss school like me?”
“90% of them said yes, of course,” Feetterer said.
Marc Williams, assistant principal at Hamilton Southeastern’s Fall Creek Intermediate School, was already mentally prepared for Thursday’s announcement. During the last dismissal before schools closed in March, Williams stayed outside like he always does to wave to all the departing buses. “I knew that day was probably the last day that was going to happen,” he said.
“I think people were holding onto hope,” Williams said, but he pointed to the health risks from having so many people move through school buildings every day: “There was no way we could be assured that we’re clear.”