New Indiana law places restrictions on virtual learning days

INDIANAPOLIS – A new Indiana law limits the number of virtual learning days schools can have in which less than half the day includes live instruction from teachers.

Under House Enrolled Act 1093, districts will only be allowed to have three of those per school year.

“So many of them seem to be days where kids may have been given one assignment for the whole day and really not matching the same level of rigor than in a traditional school day,” said State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), the law’s author.

Reaction to the new law is mixed.

Harold Olin, superintendent of Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation, said it will force his district to limit the number of professional development days it provides to teachers.

“We have 300 teachers roughly, and if we want to have professional learning for all of our staff, it’s nice to have some asynchronous opportunities where we post some things for students to do so we can have the attention of our staff during the day,” Olin said.

Other superintendents say the new law won’t have much of an impact on their districts.

“We do not take any issue with it at all,” said Jeff Butts, superintendent of Wayne Township schools. “We’ve always believed, and I think the pandemic showed us even more, that working directly with our students in person is the very best way that we can help them to be successful.”

Both the Indiana PTA and the Indiana State Teachers Association have concerns, arguing these decisions should be left at the local level.

“Kids should still be learning the stuff that they would probably be learning in a classroom on that day,” said Rachel Burke, Indiana PTA president. “Our concern becomes when it comes to things like a public health crisis or inclement weather.”

“What works for one of our rural school corporations isn’t going to work necessarily in metro Indianapolis,” said Jennifer Smith-Margraf, vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Behning points out districts can ask for a waiver from the state, if needed.

“The reality is though that we’re trying to look at what’s best for kids in terms of learning,” he said.

The new law goes into effect July 1.

The Indiana Department of Education will offer schools a virtual learning certification to go beyond the three-day limit, according to a spokesperson. The details will be released at a later time.