COVID-19 response at forefront of school board discussion

The COVID-19 response was at the forefront of discussion during the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees at its regular meeting Monday, March 23.

Superintendent Chad Daugherty reminded the board that all school offices will be closed as of Tuesday, March 24 and remain closed until April 13. School officials may be contacted via email, which can be accessed from the HCCSC website, hccsc.k12.in.us.

Daugherty thanked the corporation’s leadership, directors, teachers, food service staff, technology staff, transportation, custodial and other classified staff for their efforts during the coronavirus response, saying they have gone above and beyond to get through the pandemic.

“It’s been really neat to see everybody step in in a crisis,” he said. “We’ve taken this challenge and made it an opportunity. Our teachers are calling parents and students to make sure students are getting their education. They’re going above and beyond, making relationships.

Administrators are calling on kids, making home visits. Teachers are even making home visits. It’s just been really neat to make those connections to show that everybody cares. Parents have been really good and understanding during this time as we make those connections.”

Daugherty singled out Food Service Director Ken Akins and his food service staff for their efforts to make sure the district’s children have enough food during the closing of school buildings. He said more than 9,500 meals were given out on the first day of the program.

“They were amazing. Many of them were very emotional to see some of our students,” he added. “They really care about our students and our families, and just did an outstanding job.”

Daugherty also reported that paraprofessionals have been doing deep cleaning in the buildings, and secretaries have done a great job in contacting families to keep them informed of the changes.

He also introduced a new schedule, formed as a result of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s new executive orders handed down earlier in the day:

• March 23 to March 27 – remote learning.

• March 30 to April 2 – waiver days.

• April 3 to April 10 – spring break.

• April 13 to April 17 – waiver days.

• April 20 to April 24 – remote learning.

• April 27 to May 1 – remote learning.

Daugherty said the district’s new remote learning plan has worked well, formed in one day by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Jay Peters, the professional development team and the Huntington County Teachers Association to replace students’ eLearning schedules and improve curriculum for at-home learning. Teachers have been using Zoom conferencing and Canvas conferencing to give “face-to-face” instruction to students.

Peters said because of new restrictions that may prohibit some pupils from accessing the Internet to work with modules and do their lessons, students will still be able to go back and complete them with flexible due dates.

He also said all spring 2020 assessment tests have been canceled. Those include IREAD-3, ILEARN, ISTEP+, IAM, WIDA and NAEP.

Daugherty also said administrators will attend a webinar from the Indiana Department of Education regarding senior students, addressing such issues as requirements for graduation. He said it may be possible that graduation will be pushed back to sometime in the summer. Prom may also be delayed to summer as well.

“We want to make sure kids are going to have those experiences,” he said. “If we can do it, we want to do it, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those young people, and those parents deserve to see that too.”

Among other items before trustees:

• The board approved pay for classified staff during the work stoppage with a 6-0 vote. Board member Tim Allen was absent. Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Scott Bumgardner explained the move will allow the district to pay hourly employees for time not worked, while avoiding a “ghost employment” clause in its current pay status.