During the coronavirus pandemic crisis, The La Porte County Herald-Argus has dropped the paywall for major breaking virus-related stories. If you appreciate local journalism, please help us continue to keep La Porte County informed by considering a subscription. Learn more here.MICHIGAN CITY — Indiana school students will not be returning to the classroom anytime soon as state officials have ordered remote learning for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.

Governor Eric Holcomb on Thursday signed an executive order requiring all K-12 schools in Indiana to provide instruction via remote learning for the remainder of the school year and outline options for districts to continue education during the fight against COVID-19.

The order will also mean cancellation of all spring sports seasons, the IHSAA announced.

“Students are the future of our state and teachers are the heart of our schools,” Holcomb said. “While COVID-19 is impacting every classroom, our teachers, administrators, school board members and school staff are going to extraordinary levels to deliver quality learning to students all across our state, even while school buildings are closed,” he said.

“We’ll continue to do everything we can to empower educators and parents, while protecting students’ health.”

Michigan City Area Schools Superintendent Barbara Eason-Watkins said more information will be forthcoming in the near future.

“Based on Governor Holcomb’s announcement today, Michigan City Area Schools will continue with eLearning as we conclude this school year. We’ll have much more information for our staff, families, and the community soon, including an updated eLearning calendar,” she said.

“No one could have predicted in August that our 2019-20 school year would finish in this way; however, the safety and health of our students, staff and community is crucial. I thank everyone for their patience and their support as we work through the details.”

La Porte Community School Corp. Superintendent Mark Francesconi will meet with other local school officials on Friday to discuss the governor’s decision and determine how best to proceed with remote instruction for the remainder of the school year, he said.

The superintendent anticipates the district will continue its current weekly schedule of having several eLearning days interspersed with waiver days, he said.

The corporation will likely hold for several weeks before announcing plans on how to handle graduation, Francesconi said.

The district intends to continue distributing free breakfast and lunch meals to local children every Monday through Friday through the extended closure.

Though the district with release more information to the public Friday, for now, Francesconi is thanking La Porte parents and the community for their patience, and helping with their children’s education on top of their other daily duties, he said.

“We appreciate and applaud them for stepping up and taking on these added responsibilities during these times, which are unprecedented in our history,” Francesconi said.

Marquette Catholic High School principal Allyson Headd called the situation sad, but necessary.

“I speak for all Marquette Catholic teachers and staff when I say that we are deeply saddened by this news, but understand why this is necessary in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Marquette Catholic is a very special place and the separation from everyone – students and colleagues – has been difficult,” she said.

“We are so proud of the things our teachers, students and staff have been doing during these unprecedented times. ...

“With the best interests of our students and staff our top priority, we will continue with our virtual learning plan as planned for after Spring Break. We want to reassure you that our commitment to our students has not wavered these last few weeks, nor will it in the weeks to come.”

Marquette will continue to proceed following guidelines from both the Catholic Diocese of Gary and the Indiana Department of Education, Headd said.

“Once Holy Week and Easter have concluded, we will have further information to share with you. ... Please continue to stay engaged with our school through our social media channels and website.”

State Schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick said she understood the continued closure will be difficult for many families but “all of us have to do our part.”

Seniors will receive credit toward graduation for courses enrolled in this semester, she said. Younger high school and middle school students will have to earn credits for this semester’s courses as determined by local districts, she said.

Schools were initially ordered to stay closed until May 1 and were not required to provide remote instruction, though many offered online learning or distributed at-home assignments. Districts now have until mid-April to provide the state with plans for continuing instruction online or through other methods.

Districts will do their best to find creative ways of marking milestones, including graduations, McCormick said.

“I understand those milestone moments are important and I’m not trying to diminish that at all,” she said. “If you’re going to be upset with someone, be upset with me and support your local schools.”

A statement from the IHSAA on Thursday announced the cancellation of all spring sports tournament series events and programs for the 2019-20 school year.

“In unwavering support, yet with extreme sadness, we must cancel our spring sports programming. We join all Hoosiers in anticipation of a triumphant homecoming back to our schools in the fall of 2020, complete with a full complement of IHSAA sports.”

The order also extends teaching licenses expiring between March 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2020, until Sept. 1, 2020.

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