School board members get peek at re-entry plan

During the regular meeting of the Huntington County Community School Corporation’s Board of School Trustees on Monday, June 22, board members got a sneak peek of the corporation’s goals and re-entry plans for its sports and extracurricular program.

However, Superintendent Chad Daugherty made it clear that details of the plan will not be available until the board’s July 20 meeting.

On June 11, HCCSC administrators met with representatives of the Huntington County Department of Health, Parkview Huntington Hospital and the Huntington County Teachers Association to discuss a re-entry plan for going back to school. Also discussed was the 37-page list of recommendations handed down from the Indiana Department of Education and what would be the best fit for adoption for the safety of students and staff as they return to classes.

Daugherty did talk about plans for a “Virtual K-12 Option,” saying a recent parent survey showed just over 10 percent did not want their children to come back to school when it opens on Aug. 5.

He added that 41 percent of parents were in favor of a virtual learning option, while 58 percent said no.

“A little of that is telling in that questionnaire, that data – we don’t have a formalized plan,” he told the board. “I think one of the things that some of the people ask – ‘What is your plan?’ – Well, right now we’re continuing to working through what that plan is going to look like. Things keep changing. It’s very fluid.”

Daugherty used masks as an example, saying one day the CDC says masks should be worn by all students and staff and the surgeon general says they shouldn’t be worn.

Other considerations to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 are based on three criteria, Daugherty said: 1. Personal protection equipment (PPE), including wearing masks, which he said would be recommended but not required; 2. social distancing in the buildings; and 3. cohorting of students, by keeping them in classrooms for breakfast and lunch and reducing the numbers in a class at one time.

Other considerations include bus seating charts and amending the student handbook to include COVID-19 restrictions. However, he added that school would start at the same time as the previous year.

“I feel pretty good where we’re at,” he said. “Now it’s just putting it all on paper, our plan, and getting those things.”

Daugherty said that the plan presented to the board for approval on July 20 will also be OK’d by the board of health.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Jay Peters said the recent virtual summer school program served as a testing ground to determine what worked best and what could be done better, with an eye of using that information in putting together the K-12 virtual learning program for the fall.

“During our remote learning, we can give you example after example where there was positive interaction between the teacher and the student,” Peters said. “And because of the connection, that building of that relationship, it was a success. Totally impressed with the attendance, the teachers said the attendance was great. Our families and our students were engaged, and they were impressed with that, and were able to see some pockets of growth throughout that 15 days.”

Peters said of those parents who favored the virtual learning option, 239 students would be affected: 103 elementary students, 58 middle school students and 78 at the high school. He added that students would be allowed to change from the virtual learning option and return to the classroom one time per school year.

Teachers were also surveyed to find out which ones are interested in participating in the K-12 option. They have until June 26 to respond, Peters said.

Board members also heard from Huntington North High School Athletic Director Kristine Teusch about the re-entry plan for extracurricular/sports.

“We missed our whole spring season. Kids are ready to be back together, coaches are ready to have them back, I’m ready for people to be back,” she said. “We are going to be very serious about what we do because we want our kids to hopefully be able to participate all the way through fall.”

Teusch presented the three-phased plan, which begins July 6. It started with a “to-do” list off what student athletes need to do before July 1. Included on the list is filling out of forms. Also, students who suffered a concussion during the 2019-20 school year must get a new physical exam. Those students who did not have a concussion may use last year’s physical, but parents must sign a waiver.

During Phase I, which occurs July 6 through July 19, students must come to practice ready to begin; no lockers will be available. Masks need to be worn as much as possible during practice, and when social distancing is not possible and not in vigorous activity. Student-athletes will also be screened each day prior to practice, including a temperature check. Student-athletes will be grouped into cohorts of 10 to 15 and will practice with that group through Phase I and as much of Phase II as possible. No formal competition will be allowed.

During Phase II, from July 20 through Aug. 14, athletes must arrive ready to practice. Locker rooms will be available for football only. Contact will be allowed; however, spectators will not be allowed at scrimmages.

Phase III will begin Aug. 15. Locker rooms will be available at 50 percent capacity for fall athletes. Contact will be allowed, following IHSAA guidelines. Formal competitions with spectators will be allowed. Athletes, coaches, staff and concession workers will be asked to wear masks and use PPE. Guidelines are also in place in the event an athlete is exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

Teusch added that Aug. 15 is the date when athletic contests are allowed to have spectators, with no limitation on the amount of spectators present for the games.

She also said student athletes must attend regular school and will not be allowed to take the virtual option.

The board approved the extracurricular re-entry plan unanimously. Board President Mathew Roth thanked Teusch and expressed his gratitude for her work in forming the plan.

“I know everyone is trying to plan for an unlimited number of possibilities,” he said. “I think this gets us started on hopefully, what is a smooth transition back as normal as can be.”