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SH schools set to resume Tuesday

SH schools set to resume Tuesday SH schools set to resume Tuesday
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]orydondemocrat.com

The South Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees met Friday morning in special session for the final time before school begins next week. Under normal circumstances, this would usually be a long, strategic planning day for the board, but, due to COVID-19, was used as a meeting to update the board about the revised game plan for the 2020-21 school year.

Tami Geltmaker, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for South Harrison schools, has been spearheading the planning for the year with other directors and coordinators of the South Harrison corporation staff. She explained to the board that revisions to the back-to-school plan have happened continuously and all they could count on was that things were never going to be fully certain in regard to the best choice for the kids. However, they have settled on a tentative plan.

As of Friday, according to Geltmaker, the corporation had 12% of students requesting the virtual option for schooling, which they will do at home. Prior to that, the number was only 7%. Due to the increased number of students, 362 out of 3,100, the plan needed to be adjusted to compensate for that jump, especially for students at the junior high and senior high levels.

The game plan previously was to have students complete coursework on PLATO, an online education program. However, that would require teachers to be working their planned in-classroom coursework as well as checking in on the classrooms in PLATO. Because of the increase in students, there is nearly an entire full classroom size for each grade level of students.

Geltmaker explained that all the teachers wanted to be inside their classrooms teaching students, so they had to make a switch to the plan.

Now, at the junior and senior high levels, students will virtually sit in on each of their classes, as if they were going to school in-person for the day. Based on their course schedule, students who chose the virtual route will log in to a video conference call where they will appear on screen in the classroom. They will sit in on each lecture and will be able to raise their hand if they have questions for the teachers.

“We saw no other way but to put kids in the classroom with each teacher virtually,” Geltmaker said. “One reason for the switch was that PLATO didn’t offer many weighted courses and administrators didn’t want that to affect scholarships or class ranking. Our at-risk, in regards to health, students will be worked with specifically to see what we can do to best work with their schedules.”

Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge said that no plan is going to be perfect, but that he hopes his team and staff will be able to trust they are making science-backed decisions to do what is best for the students of the South Harrison community and that all decisions are being checked by state officials and the local health department before being finalized.

“COVID is here to stay,” Eastridge said. “And, many people have been asking me if I would send my own child back to school right now. Well, I am sending my granddaughter, and my wife is an educator. I can’t guarantee there won’t be cases. I think there will be. But, we are trying to make safe, educated decisions, and this is something that I think will work best for our community.”

Eastridge also offered up a tremendous thank you to Lucas Oil, which recently donated 100 gallons of sanitizer to the South Harrison school district. The company also committed to donating 300 more gallons throughout the rest of the school year.

The only thing the board was certain of is that things are going to be changing on the fly for this school year.

“We are as ready as we’ll ever be, and I believe the year will have virtual instruction in some way, shape or form for most, if not all, students,” Eastridge said. “But, the key is to be ready to shift to that seamlessly, and I think we are.”

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