HCCSC hears update on virtual learning option enrollment Aug. 24

Nearly three weeks into the Huntington County Community School Corporation “in-person” school, board members heard an update at their regular meeting Monday, Aug. 24, on the district’s virtual learning option that now has 872 students enrolled in online classes.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Jay Peters said that number is up from 859 at his last report at the Aug. 10 board meeting. That number breaks down to 383 elementary school students, 200 students in middle school and 287 in high school.
Virtual learning classes for elementary students started on Aug. 19, two weeks later than those students coming in person to brick-and-mortar buildings. However, Peters said the time wasn’t wasted.

 “We’re in the process of completing district-wide NWEA testing for K through eighth. We’ll have that done by Sept. 11. That’s in the process right now. We are actually doing NWEA testing virtually for the very first time. We’ve never done that before,” he said. “We used those two weeks for community building, making those connections, reaching out, setting up appointments with our parents to come in during orientation nights. So that time was well spent.”

Peters added the Indiana Department of Education requires five hours of instruction daily for elementary pupils, six hours daily for middle school students and also at the high school level.

School Superintendent Chad Daugherty said Peters had to “relocate” about a dozen elementary teachers so they can teach the virtual learning students.

Daugherty also stressed that e-learning days are days that all students stay home due to inclement weather and can do their assignments online. The virtual learning program is very different and remote learning students begin their day when the regular class begins, which is more rigorous than e-learning days.

Daugherty also addressed the two COVID-19 events that recently caused the quarantine of one class at Roanoke Elementary School and four students at Horace Mann Elementary School.

He said one staff member tested positive for the coronavirus and school officials worked with the Huntington County Department of Health to identify close contacts with that person.

“It resulted in 19 students having to be quarantined for 14 days at Roanoke Elementary and Horace Mann Elementary,” he reported.

In the second incident, Daugherty also talked about a “false positive” test result that school officials received and acted on quickly, sending out a letter to parents and staff of Riverview Middle School via the SchoolMessenger system to alert them of the situation and sending students home. That information later turned out to be inaccurate. He said Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws make it hard to sort out medical information.

“We’ve been able to shore that up in that process, again, to make sure we don’t have those false positives,” Daugherty said. “When you have that, working with the Health Department, we’re going by the information that we’re receiving.”

Daugherty had high praise for Huntington North High School Athletic Director Kristine Teusch as well as parents and student athletes for how they have handled recent sporting events.

“This past weekend we were able to hold a 17-team cross country invitational at Huntington University without any fans whatsoever,” he said. “She did a great job of communicating that information and all the athletic participants were able to participate on the HU course.”

He added his thanks to students and fans of the recent home football game who wore masks at the event and kept a social distance in the stands.

Attendance at games will also remain at 250 until the governor lifts the 4.5 restrictions to 5.0, which will allow a full number of spectators.

Textbook fees were also a topic of discussion during the meeting. Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Scott Bumgardner told the board that the new eFunds online payment system has not worked as well as he had hoped. The system would allow credit and debit card and other online payments for expenses such as student lunches and textbook fees.

“That has slowed down with some of the issues we’ve had,” he explained. “But more than that, it’s just been a trial-and-error.”

Although the student lunch fee eFunds payment process is up and running, Bumgardner stressed that no student has received a textbook bill yet. Those bills will go out to parents as soon as possible, hopefully by the end of the week.

Bumgardner dispelled rumors that fees have gone up and parents have gotten extremely high bills for textbook rental.

School Board President Matt Roth said any parent who has questions about textbook fees should call their school directly to get accurate information rather than rely on social media reports for information that may not be correct. He reminded the board that device fees actually went down $100 last year.

In other action, the board unanimously approved a new fire services agreement with the City of Huntington’s fire department to provide firefighting service to Flint Springs Elementary School and also to Lincoln Elementary School, both of which are located outside the city limits.

HCCSC will pay the city $1 annually for the service.

Looking ahead, Bumgardner will make a presentation of the new school budget at the board’s next meeting on Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. at Salamonie Elementary School, 1063E-900S, Warren.