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August 7, 2020

7/1/2020 11:38:00 AM
School plan provides options
Patience needed as shools, parents navigate 'new normal'
Kylan Higgs

"Have some patience," was the sage advice given by School Board President Pat Sullivan at the special meeting to approve the school reopen plan on Thursday, June 25.

As the Aug. 6 open date for local schools quickly approaches, parents, teachers, administration and students alike will all need to practice that virtue as they maneuver the frontier of matriculating during a pandemic. Patience and flexibility will be key watchwords to move forward as situations which the school corporatoin has no power to control fluctuate.

The school reopening plan was revealed Thursday, right after the Pledge of Allegiance was pronounced. Sullivan asked the 20 or so community members gathered to hold any questions until Super- intendent Teresa Brown summarized the plan.

Before the plan could be outlined, one man present stood to commend the composed dedication and resourcefulness shown by teachers and others last spring when COVID-19 unexpectedly forced the closure of traditional schools and necessitated e-learning.

Just 30 minutes of summarizing and answ-ering questions later, the Jennings County School Corporation's "Panthers' Prepare & Care" plan to reopen schools for the 2020-21 academic year was approved.

Parents will now have the choice to register their child for a re-imagined traditional school model or an online school model. Links to parent guides with details of the plan for the elementary, middle and high schools are available on the JCS website and Facebook page. Once parents review the guide in its entirety, they can begin registration for their child July 1-10. Transportation and internet forms will also need to be completed during registration.

Students' first day is scheduled Aug 6.

Following are highlights of the two choices. Note that as health guidelines change due to COVID-19, the school corporation will "adjust our plans accordingly." To read the complete plan(s), go to https://www.jcsc.org/ news#upcomingplans.

Traditional Model

In surveys undertaken by the school corporation, 58.3 percent of families said they preferred traditional instruction at schools.

Students will return to school five days a week, but schools will look different as social distancing guidelines will be in effect.

For example, there will be additional lunch periods to allow for spacing and "robust" cleaning and sanitizing.

In areas where social distancing is not available, such as in classroom where dimensions are too small for the number of students enrolled to allow for six feet apart, masks will be mandatory. In other instances, classrooms may be relocated to larger spaces. Masks will also be required in public areas such as halls, on the bus and during arrival and dismissal.

Bus transportation will be provided as in previous years.

Online Learning Model

This choice is for families who "want to limit their students from contact with others, due to medical concerns".

The plan notes that the online model "is being redeveloped and will look very different from the spring of 2020." It will be "much more rigorous" with students held accountable for completion of work.

Elementary students will be expected to participate in online work about five hours each day and secondary students six hours a day, as required by the Indiana Department of Education.

Training will be availabe to students and families who choose this option.

No more JCHS 'Red Days'

One of many new implementations already in place in the Panther's Prepare & Care guide to improve teaching and learning for Jennings County High School are the new Panther Days.

Essentially replacing Red Days from the previous JCHS bell schedule model, Panther Days are scheduled days throughout the 2020-21 school year which will consist of students completing all eight class periods in a digital learning format. Students may be on or off campus depending on their academic stance and/or individual needs. The school building will be open to students, lunch will be served, and all staff will report as normal.

JCHS runs on block scheduling where fewer class periods meet for longer amounts of time and alternate day to day. Blue days consist of periods 1-4 and were previously held on Monday and Wednesday. White days consist of periods 5-8 and were previously held on Tuesday and Thurs-day. The class schedule also used to consist of weekly Red Days on Friday in which students would attend all eight periods in one day for an accumulative weekly summary. But, as JCHS Principal Dustin Roller had explained earlier this year, Red Days were already in the process of being eliminated in favor of implementing a trimester schedule. COVID-19 has apparently sidelined trimester scheduling for now.

Blue and white days will now continually alternate day-to-day without a weekly Friday summary and Panther Days will occur after ten days of instruction, or after five blue days and five white days. The first scheduled Panther Day is Thursday, August 20.

Panther Days will allow students to receive continuity of instruction through enrichment activities and/or remediation for each course on their schedule. Addition-ally, Panther Days will familiarize students with teachers' e-learning format and assignments prior to any closure.

Students who attend school on campus for Panther Days, who do not have missing assignments, will report to a study hall-like area in the building. Specific locations will be determined when the number of students attending is confirmed. This is an option for students who rely on school transportation to attend sports and after school activities. Any middle or high school students registered for online learning are not permitted to participate in clubs or sports per IHSAA guidelines, as noted in the middle/high school Panther's Prepare & Care guide.

Questions arise at meeting

Bus drivers in attendance at the special school board meeting last week were assured bus transportation would be needed for students. Currently, bus routes are being reviewed and will be adjusted once registration is completed.

Assigned seating and food/drink prohibitions are among rules put in place to provide safe transportation.

One driver's concern was enforcing the wearing of masks on the bus, which is required. If a student forgets their mask, the school system will do its best to provide bus drivers with spares as long as their supply reserves hold up. If a student refuses to wear a mask or face shield, a parent or guardian will have to drive them to school or the student will have to transfer to online learning.

Food service was also questioned. Online students will be given the opportunity to receive food pickup based on corporation guidelines, designated times, and pickup procedures at JCEC. Students who attend traditional school are allowed to bring their lunch from home, but sharing either home-brought or school-bought food between students is prohibited.

Enrollment numbers will give administration a better idea of how they will need to adjust for a traditional school setting.

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