FLOYD COUNTY — Starting Friday, New Albany-Floyd County Schools will move to complete eLearning for the rest of the semester due to rising COVID-19 cases.
NAFC Superintendent Brad Snyder and Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris announced the decision in a video posted Tuesday morning. Thursday will be the last day for in-person instruction this semester, and eLearning will continue through Dec. 18.
The switch to eLearning applies to all NAFC facilities, including Prosser Career Education Center and the Children's Academy Early Learning Center. The only exception includes students going through intense intervention.
"We have a couple of days here to get organized," Snyder said. Everyone's going to need to come in, make sure they have their devices, their chargers, their daycare, transportation situations worked out. Teachers will have to switch lesson planning and activities so we are ready to begin on Friday."
Floyd County was recently moved from yellow to orange on the state's color-coded map tracking COVID-19 spread, and the county "is closing in on the red category this week," which indicates high levels of community spread, according to Harris.
"The state's seven-day rolling average in Indiana has been the highest in the past seven days of any point in the pandemic," he said. "We have certainly seen a marked increase in number of cases here in Floyd County. Additionally, the case totals have doubled every week in Indiana for the last four weeks."
Floyd County has seen its overall positivity rate for ages 18 and under almost double in the first 15 days of November from the average total in October, Harris said.
He hopes to 18-day switch to virtual learning will "serve as a functional fire-break and lower the incidents of COVID-19 in our community."
"We think that this measure will actually alter the trajectory of the disease in our overall community," Harris said. "There is good research from the closures in April and May that shows that school closures saves lives in addition to the students who are saved from becoming ill."
Harris said the goal is to get students back to in-person learning as soon as possible, depending on the status of COVID-19 spread in the community.
NAFCS has been implementing in-person learning models since starting school in August, but for grades 7-12, students were completing a hybrid model alternating between both in-person and virtual learning. Staffing issues due to positive cases and quarantining are among the challenges the district has faced.
"In the last few weeks, there is just no doubt that the increase with the virus present has had an effect on us," Snyder said. "We have had a significant increase in numbers of positive cases with our students and our staff, but probably more importantly, the numbers of quarantines required to mitigate that has impacted us dramatically."
NAFC will also be reinstating closures of facilities for community use until the end of 2020, including all activities with the exception of high school sports, Snyder said. The closure will apply to mini-leagues, recreational swims and middle school sports.
"I also want everyone to know that we're not canceling these events, but rather we're postponing them with hopes that they can be rescheduled sometime after the first of the year or whenever it is that the public health concern is muted and it is safe to resume those activities," Snyder said.
Snyder said he recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create many challenges for parents, students and others in the community.
"No one has asked for this virus — all we can do is navigate and do what we can do to keep everyone safe," he said. "We will continue to monitor and follow the science and look at the data and the trends and do what we can to make the best decisions we can for everyone out there."
Harris said "community support and collaboration" is needed in Floyd County, and he urges people to follow essential mitigation measures such as mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.
This situation is "truly unprecedented," Snyder said. "None of us have ever lived through a pandemic before.
"We do need to be reminded how fortunate we the people are to have so many safeguards and so many people working in unison to provide a healthy community."