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SH outlines COVID regulations for new school year

SH outlines COVID regulations for new school year SH outlines COVID regulations for new school year
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

It was standing room only at the South Harrison Community School Corp. meeting last Tuesday evening as the board discussed the protocols to be put in place for back-to-school plans. Many parents were attending because they were interested in hearing the new regulations for their children.

In a plan unanimously approved by the board of trustees at the meeting, issues like masks and instruction were addressed.

Dr. Mark Eastridge, district school superintendent, explained that virtual instruction will only be offered to those students with significant health needs as they want to try to get all students back in a classroom this year. He also said masks will be optional for staff and students.

“We are waiting to hear on guidelines for what students will be required to do in regards to wearing face masks on school buses,” Eastridge said. “That currently is a federal mandate and out of our control.”

One issue in the plan that will have significant impact on students’ daily lives is the decrease in quarantine time.

Eastridge noted that, after compiling data, the school corporation, working with the county health department, determined that during the 2020-21 school year very few students who were required to quarantine due to coming into contact with positive cases ended up testing positive for COVID-19 themselves.

Because of this, for the 2021-22 school year, students who are identified as a close contact to a positive case — but have since received a negative test result for themselves — may return to school with daily monitoring by the school nurse to check for symptoms and report any changes.

Schools will offer free COVID testing for students and staff.

Eastridge also said he has full ability to change any of these protocols if any outbreak occurs or if something else would require the plan to be altered.

Diane Owen and Allison Schalk, the directors of curriculum, instruction and assessment for elementary and secondary, respectively, initially were scheduled to present to the trustees that night about ILEARN testing results. However, the scores are not released to the public yet. The pair expects to be able to share with the board on or after July 23 what the test results look like.

Schalk did note they have received guidance from the state after evaluations that it is going to take about three years to make up the learning loss throughout the state for students in regard to test scores.

“The three-year mark is an average to make up where the kids are collectively across the state,” Schalk said. “Some schools in Indiana have not been back to school at all since before the pandemic, and South Harrison has been holding in-person class more than most schools, so we hope to make that a shorter turnaround than three years to get our test scores up.”

In order to do so, Owen and Schalk explained they have already hit the ground running through South Harrison’s summer school program and summer trainings for teachers. They also shared they intend to host curriculum meetings frequently, encourage small-group instruction and intentional scheduling for students.

“We really wanted to look toward the systematic changes we can make that will improve the corporation as a whole moving beyond those three years we intend to make up,” Schalk said.

Many of the board members said they believe three years is a concerning number but are hopeful it can take less amount of time than the state expects.

The first day of school for students will be Tuesday, Aug. 3 (teachers and other staff begin Monday, Aug. 2). The board will also meet that evening at 7 for its next regular meeting at the corporation office.