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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered how we live, how we interact and how we educate Indiana's students. As districts, local associations and public health officials work toward providing safe learning options, ISTA is advocating for safe learning options. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released new guidelines for schools during COVID-19.
ISTA continues to follow the latest news and information on COVID-19 and its impacts to public schools, educators, students and families. On this page, we continue to share information and resources to keep families, kids and educators safe and continuing to learn and support development. Please share these resources with your network.
Vaccination Resources and Information
UPDATE: Due to your continued advocacy, starting Monday, March 15, Hoosier educators will be able to receive a vaccine at all Indiana vaccine sites. This will provide hundreds of more location options to educators. Visit ourshot.in.gov to find a vaccination location and register. We will continue working with our partner at Meijer to provide school-based clinics.
UPDATE: President Joe Biden directed all states to complete first vaccination of educators by end of March.
Federal Retail Pharmacy Program participants in Indiana include Kroger, Meijer and Walmart. The pharmacies in the federal program will integrate educators into their vaccination systems and protocols. As ISTA receives more information, it will be shared here.
Kroger has updated their vaccine registration for educators to register for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.
Meijer is now accepting registrations for educators to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. School employees who text “ISTA” to 75049 will be put in a registration system from Meijer that is just for school employees. This same special registration system can be accessed online.
Guidance from the White House is as follows:
"...in order to fulfill the purpose of the Secretary’s directive issued on March 2, 2021, any CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program provider, effective immediately, make available and administer, as one of the currently eligible groups, COVID-19 vaccine to all teachers, school staff, and child care workers, as defined below. In addition, CDC requires all enrolled retail pharmacy providers to set aside all currently unbooked vaccination slots for the exclusive use of teachers, school staff, and child care workers through March 31, 2021. Slots that remain unbooked 48 hours prior to the appointment may be released to others. Enrolled retail pharmacy providers are also encouraged to utilize mobile and pop-up locations, as feasible, to reach this population. Teachers, school staff, and child care workers are defined as: those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers) and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers."
UPDATE: Indiana health officials have confirmed that special education educators who conduct close-contact medical care for students with disabilities are encouraged to be vaccinated. Eligible educators should register for the vaccine as a healthcare worker on the state’s registration platform.
ISTA is still fighting for all educators to be eligible for vaccination.
ISTA President Keith Gambill responds to the lifting of mandatory quarantines after COVID-19 exposures in schools as educators still wait for vaccines.
ISTA President Keith Gambill released a statement following the Indiana State Department of Health’s decision to re-write Indiana’s vaccine plan removing school staff as next in line for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Learn more about the state's COVID-19 vaccination plan.
Educators need clear answers on when they will be prioritized for the vaccine as we have seen in other states across the country. Ask the state health commissioner to prioritize teachers in the state's vaccine plan and tell teachers when they will be next in line.
Indiana's Vaccination Program
Learn more about the state's COVID-19 vaccination plan.
Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Information
Find the latest federal guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations, health information and data on the regulatory approval process for vaccines.
NEA Position on COVID-19 Vaccines
We have an opportunity to return to an in-person education where every student can thrive, but only if vaccination distribution is equitable and education campaigns are transparent.
Since March 2020, ISTA President Keith Gambill has issued the following statements regarding COVID-19 and its impacts on kids, educators and schools. For more news, visit our newsroom.
ISTA Applauds President Biden for Prioritizing Educators for Vaccines
March 2, 2021: "We are relieved that with the president’s leadership, our members can see a light at the end of the tunnel. We look forward to working with state officials to efficiently vaccinate educators across Indiana this month."
State Leaders Must Work with Educators on Fighting COVID
February 4, 2021: "Decisions like this change in quarantine procedures furthers the practice of government not engaging educators and K – 12 communities who are directly impacted by these decisions."
Teachers Must Be Prioritized in Vaccination Plan
January 8, 2021: "Teachers must be prioritized to receive the vaccine. Too many schools are closed. Too many students are falling behind. We need teachers vaccinated and safely teaching in person to best serve students and to move forward with restoring our state’s economy."
Help Hoosier Students, Workers
December 10, 2020: ISTA President Keith Gambill and Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar collaborated on a letter to the editor urging Hoosiers to wear a mask, avoid public gatherings and other safety measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Do More to Protect Students and Educators
November 20, 2020: "While we believe in-person instruction for students is best under normal circumstances, these aren’t normal circumstances. The lack of consistency within and across school districts is causing serious instability for students and educators alike."
Public School Funding During COVID-19
August 7, 2020: "Now is the time for state leaders to lead – and that means fully funding and fully supporting our public schools so educators can focus on doing what’s best for more than 1 million Hoosier kids who count on them.'
Requirements Needed for Safe School Re-opening
July 30, 2020: "We believe in-person learning is essential for our students and their families. However, no educator should be forced to choose between their livelihood and their health or safety."
School Re-entry Guidance
June 5, 2020: "The guidance released today clearly leaves the decision-making standards on re-entry to local school districts. This means teachers and staff must be part of this planning, as much of the responsibility for student safety falls on them."
Teacher Evaluations During COVID-19
April 7, 2020: "Given that nearly a third of the teaching year has been disrupted, it’s hard to imagine how any annual review process would be meaningful to anyone or serve as a fair basis for high-stakes decisions."
Suspension of School Year Due to COVID-19
April 2, 2020: "Since March, educators, students and families have adopted new technologies and adapted to learning at home. Gov. Holcomb’s decision to close public schools through this school year is prudent and will keep everyone safer."
Preventative School Closures
March 12, 2020: "ISTA supports the governor’s decision to provide flexibility for Indiana schools in order to protect the health of students, staff and their families. ISTA stands by as a partner to help in efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools."
"ISTA members live and teach in every corner and county in the state. And one size does not fit all."
ISTA President Keith Gambill
View the Educator Rights in School Reopening Plans webinar from July 23, 2020. Please note that information and recommendations are changing rapidly.
ISTA President Keith Gambill and ISTA members share insights from a meeting with Gov. Eric Holcomb about safely reopening schools.
Watch Reopening Schools During COVID-19: A Health & Safety Conversation webinar from July 29, 2020.
Advocacy on Reopening Plans
Educators and local associations are key stakeholders and can act as advocates for safely reopening schools. Through discussion with administration, local associations can offer guidance and recommendations for safe conduct in schools, in classrooms, on buses and more. The day-to-day experience of educators can inform and improve school responses to COVID-19, including adjusting workloads to fit within pandemic response and avoid educator burnout.
Learn more about educator working conditions during a pandemic at InvestInEducationIN.org.
Citing soaring cases of COVID-19 and multiple instances of unsafe practices impacting student and educator health, ISTA President Keith Gambill issued a statementon Nov. 20.
In late July, ISTA President Keith Gambill sent Gov. Eric Holcomb a letter. In it Gambill states that before school buildings reopen for in-person learning, data must indicate that COVID-19 is under control in the school’s community - meaning in-person learning must wait until transmission rates in the community are both low and declining over at least the past two weeks as measured by key indicators such as infection rates, hospitalization rates and hospital capacity. Read more.
Following requests from ISTA, the Indiana State Department of Health has released color-coded recommendations based on community spread to assist local officials and districts in determining appropriate school operations.
If you believe your district’s plan is unsafe, please reach out to your local president or ISTA UniServ Director.
On July 22, Gov. Holcomb announced a mask mandate for grades 3 - 12 and issued additional guidance for schools. ISTA President Keith Gambill released a statement in response.
In mid-June, ISTA President Keith Gambill sent Gov. Eric Holcomb a letter expressing ISTA member concerns about school reopening plans. On July 14, Gambill and ISTA members met with the governor to discuss those concerns. View a full review of the conversation with the governor on Facebook.
Resources on Reopening
ISTA continues to release information local associations can use to advocate for their kids, schools and communities. ISTA hosted a webinar on discussion July 8. The Indiana Department of Education has created a re-entry resources hub.
These resources are date stamped. With the rapidly changing situation, connect with your UniServ Director for the latest information.
State Government Resources
To prepare for possible community transmission of COVID-19, the most important thing for schools to do now is plan and prepare. As the global outbreak evolves, schools should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks.
Training & Professional Development
Educators are life-long learners. During this crisis, many training and professional development opportunities have been postponed or canceled. Here are resources for educators looking to access quality, peer-reviewed training and professional development.
With the widespread impacts of the coronavirus, numerous organizations, education outlets, partners and others are releasing information. ISTA will continue to share information received.
National Education Association Resources
The National Education Association (NEA) is providing advocacy on the federal level as Congress and federal agencies determine how to continue addressing impacts of COVID-19 and funding public schools. The NEA has also prepared resources on your rights, collected information from across the federal government and highlighted resources to help you talk to students about what is happening.
Learning Resources & Guidance
Frequently Asked Questions
ISTA represents nearly 40,000 educators across Indiana. In these uncertain times, we have compiled the most frequently asked questions from educators on the impact of COVID-19 on schools. If you have a question, contact your UniServ Director.
What do school corporations have to discuss before teachers or students return to school?
Pursuant to IC 20-29-6-7(9), school corporations must discuss “safety issues for students and employees in the workplace.” Before bringing teachers, and possibly students, into schools to do this work, school corporations must discuss these safety issues with local associations which would include whether these requested activities are “essential functions” given the governor’s order to close schools for safety reasons.
ISTA hosted a webinar on July 8 to review disscussable items and what to emphasize during the pandemic and while reviewing re-entry plans. Safety information and re-entry planning changes rapidly. Check with your UniServ Director for the most up-to-date information.
What happens if a child in your classroom refuses to wear a mask (and you are unable to convince the child to wear a mask) and spreads COVID-19?
This should be addressed at discussion.
Questions to ask: How will this be enforced? Do we send the students to the office?
What happens if a parent refuses to have their child wear a mask? Can they attend school?
This should be addressed at discussion.
Questions to ask: How is the district going to handle parents who refuse to have their child wear a mask? Will they be allowed in the building? Will parents be informed of the policy beforehand?
Can a parent sue the teacher if they do not want their child to wear a mask, and the teacher has the child wear a mask?
The teachers would not be held responsible for enforcing a district directive.
Must teachers be paid while schools are closed?
Yes, I.C. 20-28-9-15 requires teachers to be paid if a school is ordered to be closed by the school corporation or health authorities, or if school cannot be conducted through no fault of the teacher. As a result, even if school is closed for the remainder of the school year, teachers will continue to be paid their regular salary.
Can a school corporation require teachers to make up missed days over the summer?
The Indiana Court of Appeals has held that teachers can only be required to make up missed student days if the students are also required to make up the days. If days are waived, teachers do not have to make up the days. (South Newton School Corporation v. South Newton Classroom Teachers Association, 762 N.E.2d 115 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001))
Can a school corporation require teachers to work on days students are not in school?
Yes. Teachers can be required to prepare materials at home for E-learning or do other assignments as given by the school corporation.
Are classified employees required to be paid when days are waived for students?
No, but a school board can approve payments for classified employees even if they do not work and not be subjected to ghost employment charges.
If an employee is on FMLA leave, can a school corporation require the employee to work from home during FMLA leave?
Because of the public health emergency, can school boards hold their meetings in private?
No, but limits can be made on the number of members of the public who can attend. Additionally, the Public Access Counselor has provided flexibility for board members to attend remotely.
What if my CPR certification is nearing expiration?
The IDOE has announced that the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross have authorized the extension of CPR certifications issued by their organizations. The IDOE will honor the extensions outlined in this document.
Can teachers be required to work on days when student instruction is waived?
The governor has closed schools for the remainder of the 2019 – 20 school year, but instruction continues. He has provided 20 waiver days so that students are only required to attend school (via in person or e-learning) for 160 days. These waivers apply to students.
As for teachers, they generally have 185 day teacher contracts. The governor has not and cannot interfere with these contracts. As a result, if a day that is waived for students is one of the 185 teacher contract days, a school can make a teacher work that day. However, if a school does not make a teacher work on a student waiver day, the school cannot make a teacher work past contracted days to make up that day. The school either needs to make the teacher work on the regularly scheduled contract day that is waived for students, or not at all.
If a school says it does not plan to use any waiver days and it intends to have its students make up the missed days, teachers get paid now and have to work the made up days later with no additional pay. But, if schools have the teachers work now on days that are canceled for students, to be made up later, they would have to pay the teachers additional money for the make-up days.
What if teachers are being asked to come into school buildings for tasks like cleaning out student lockers?
Under the Governor’s Executive Order 20-08, teachers should only be coming into school buildings for the purpose of facilitating distance learning and performing essential functions. Although ISTA does not believe cleaning out student lockers is an essential function, IDOE has stated that this is a local decision. Therefore, local associations should push back on safety issues through the discussion process.