Participants at the virtual School Board meeting Thursday discuss why it would be beneficial to postpone school till Aug.13. The above image of the screen shows l to r, from top, Asst. Programs Director for Secondary Amanda Sullivan; board members Amy Pettit, Chelsea Morrison; Superintendent Secretary Debby Andis; JCHS Principal Dustin Roller; Director of Programs Nicole Johnson; board member Pat Sullivan; business manager Philip Marsh; Director of Facilities & Security Roy Herr; JCSC HR Shannon LaCoursiere; board member Susan Wahlman; Superintendent Teresa Brown; Asst. Programs Director for Elementary Todd Ebinger; and board member Tony Daeger. Not pictured is board member Travis Shepherd.—Staff Photo by Kylan Higgs
Kylan Higgs Reporter
The Jennings County School Board approved the request to postpone the back-to-school date from August 6 to August 13 during the virtual special meeting held on Thursday, July 23 and, contrary to what some may assume, it is NOT because of increased concerns regarding COVID-19.
Superintendent Teresa Brown reported in the special meeting live stream that approximately 400 students are currently enrolled in online learning and, with the possibility of all students being mandated to remote learning, the need for teachers to be on par with their technical skills and confident with their online teaching abilities takes precedence over starting school Aug. 6.
Starting school a week later will give staff more time to improve technical skills in order to provide students with a quality and engaging education and learning environment. It will also give staff time to reconnect with one another and their school, as they haven't shared space since March. Additionally, the extra time will allow staff to familiarize themselves with the new safety protocols being put in place for the students returning to traditional learning.
"The Plan has not changed," said School Board President Pat Sullivan, referring to the Panthers' Prepare & Care re-entry plan approved by the Board on June 25. The only change is that students will now be starting school a week later than originally planned. Rest assured, however, that JCS staff continue to monitor COVID cases and will adjust plans accordingly if necessary.
The five days of instruction that will be lost due to the push back will be added to the end of the year with the last day of school now scheduled for May 27, 2021.
JCS Director of Programs Nicole Johnson presented a PowerPoint detailing how teachers will hone their technical skills using various training modules. Johnson said that doing so will help the schools avoid paying for a partnership with an outside platform.
Module One teaches innovative technical skills, Module Two teaches online lesson components and design, and Module Three is a more traditional module that teachers would take at the beginning of any given school year.
This module covers any new curriculum and assessment training. For this year, there are two new reading curriculums for middle school and K-6 students, along with a new assessment test, called Renaissance STAR for K-6, which is a 20 minute test to assess where each student is in their grade level span in order to bridge any learning gaps created from the early school closures. Study Island is a similar assessment for grades 7-8.
All the meetings and additional training, as well as being accessible to inquisitive parents are just some of the many ways JCS staff and teachers have gone above and beyond for their students.
Board member Earl Taggart said during the virtual meeting, "Everything we've done has always been for the best of the students, and I'm proud of that. Now we have teachers that want to prepare themselves for the best of our students, and I'm encouraged by that."
Taggart initiated the motion to approve the date push back which was seconded by Tony Daeger.
The second and final topic on the agenda for the special meeting was in regards to the Pre-school expansion the Board approved before the COVID outbreak. Parents would pay $125 a week to send their child to Pre-school, but with the possibility of all students transferring to online learning, JCS staff were concerned that paying the Pre-school fee on top of possible child care fees would be difficult and, in some case, impossible for families. The Board voted to postpone the Pre-school initiative until next year, permitting the unknowns of COVID are less uncertain.