‘Feel bad for the kid’: What families said after Greenfield Central student tests positive

A line of cars spilled from the parking lot at Greenfield Central Junior High School and into Franklin Street Friday afternoon as students as the end of the school day drew near.

The district’s coronavirus guidelines have limited the number of students who can be dismissed at once. While a slate of changes have gone into effect to protect students and teachers from being exposed to the novel coronavirus, an unclear policy in one area has left some parents and guardians concerned. 

Greenfield-Central Community Schools has not issued specific guidance for students and staff who have been tested for the novel coronavirus and are still awaiting results, despite the Indiana Department of Education and the Hancock County Health Department having done so. Families learned Thursday evening that a student at the school had tested positive after attending the first day of classes.

“I think it’s kind of selfish of the parents of the student,” Samantha Kiefer, whose daughter is in eighth grade at the school, said, “sending their kids to school or kid to school knowing that they may or may not have it.”

Families of students at Greenfield Central Junior High School were notified on the evening of July 30 that a student had tested positive for the novel coronavirus after attending the first day of classes.

Greenfield coronavirus:A Greenfield student tested positive for COVID-19. Here’s what’s supposed to happen next.

Families of students who spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of the infected student were contacted Thursday night, according to the district. Superintendent Harold Olin declined to specify how many students had been identified among that group of close contacts.

“Because we are able to narrow this list, there is no reason to disrupt the educational process for the larger group that is served within the school,” Olin told IndyStar in an email.

The district said that all areas of all schools are disinfected every night after school and special attention was given to classrooms in which the infected student was present.

Kiefer said she was confident in the school’s hygiene procedures, she believes the same level of attention should be paid to each area of the school, not just classrooms that student was in.

“Because you just never know if the student was somewhere they don’t know,” she said, “and they didn’t take care of that area as much as they did the other areas that they know that student was.”

‘I feel bad for the kid’

Jeanie Hull, while waiting for her 7th grader, said the parents of the student who had COVID-19 shouldn’t have sent the student to school before the results were back. 

“I feel bad for the kid,” Hull said.  

Although Hull wants her daughter to be back in school and knows measures are being taken to keep students safe, she expects schools will continue to see confirmed cases of COVID-19 more often than they want. 

Hull said middle schoolers are at an age where they can understand serious conversations about the pandemic and how to follow rules about wearing masks. 

“You have to be honest with your kids,” Hull said. 

The students are supposed to keep all their belongings to themselves and aren’t even allowed to use lockers, Hull said. She sends her daughter to school with two masks, hand sanitizer, a water bottle and a packed lunch to so everything is her own.  

“She knows that it’s a serious issue,” Hull said. 

Patty Brouk, whose granddaughter is in eighth grade, said as a grandparent, she’s not on the email list that would have received the district’s email Thursday night, so she was unaware that a student had tested positive. She believes anyone who has been tested should stay home until they have an answer.

“If there’s a chance that they could be positive,” she said, “they should do the quarantine until they do know the results of it.”

The district, Brouk said, is doing the best they can, given the circumstances. And since anyone can catch the virus anywhere, she’s not anxious about her granddaughter being back in school.

“They’re probably just as safe inside the building,” she said, “as they are running around outside at shopping centers or grocery stores.”

‘What needs to happen before we shut down?’

Sherry Root, the grandmother of an eighth and 11th grader, expects the to see the number of COVID-19 cases increase now that classes are back in session.  

“Maybe we came back a little early,” Root said, “but I think the school is going to handle it in the best way they know how.”

She said students need to be wearing masks and following the rules set for them, but they also might find it difficult to properly distance themselves from one another.

“It’s hard for kids not to be together with friends and stuff,” Root said.  

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Laura Taylor, who has a seventh grader at the middle school, said other students will probably come to school with COVID-19, especially because they could be asymptomatic and spread it to classmates without realizing. 

She feels the school is doing the best it can to stay safe and remain open, but virtual learning seems like an inevitable outcome, especially since it took just one day for a confirmed case at the middle school.  

Other school districts such as Washington Township and Indianapolis Public Schools, already made the decision to begin the year online.  

“What needs to happen before we shut down?” she asked. 

Taylor said she hasn’t had to have many conversations with her three school-aged children about the importance of following coronavirus guidelines at school. They already watch the news and already wear masks when they visit relatives or go to the grocery store. 

“They’re used to it, so it’s just like this normal thing for them now,” Taylor said. “It’s sad.” 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, Hancock County has reported 597 total cases of the novel coronavirus and 37 deaths as of Friday.

IndyStar reporters Arika Herron and Elizabeth DePompei contributed.

Contact Pulliam Fellow Lydia Gerike at lgerike@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @LydiaGerike.

Call IndyStar reporter Holly Hays at 317-444-6156. Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.