Students to finish school year via eLearning

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Superintendents look for graduation options

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Just last week, many parents, students and teachers had hoped at some point to return to finish out the 2019-20 school year, but Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said on Thursday during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s address that schools are to stay closed for the remainder of the school year due to COVID-19.

Indiana became the 11th state to close schools for the remainder of the school year.

Schools throughout the state will be required to complete 160 instructional days or 20 remote learning days between now and the end of the school year. If a school completes the 20 remote learning days and falls short of the 160 total instructional days, the Indiana Dept. of Education will waive the difference.

For Michael Key, superintendent of the Crawford County Community School Corp., this announcement didn’t come as much of a surprise, and he said his team had already started planning for this to occur. He said the district has to incorporate 19 days to attain the 160 required. However, Crawford County’s struggle comes in the form of internet connectivity issues.

“Usually for eLearning, libraries are open to help students get online, but with them closed we needed to come up with alternatives,” Key said. “The high school will get assignments through Google. For those students that can’t get online, we will open our internet Wi-Fi at each school location where students can pull up in front of the school and get online. We will produce learning packets for K-8 and start that distribution beginning Monday, April 13. All assignments will be due May 14.”

Dr. Mark Eastridge, superintendent of South Harrison Community School Corp., echoed similar sentiments as Key, as he explained that he was planning for this outcome for a while. Like the other school corporations, South Harrison will have three weekly instructional eLearning days.

“South Harrison has decided to continue with eLearning instruction on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week through May 22,” Eastridge said. “This includes Friday, April 10, 2020, which was scheduled to be a make-up day for the day missed before spring break. Enrichment activities will occur on Tuesday and Thursday. The last official date of school will be Friday, May 22, 2020.”

One thing students and teachers won’t have to worry about this school year because of the pandemic is testing. Holcomb announced the cancellation of all state testing, including ISTEP10, ILEARN and IREAD-3 assessments. The U.S. Dept. of Education is awarding testing waivers, which Indiana has already been granted, to states that apply for them because of this disruption.

Steve Morris, superintendent of the Lanesville Community School Corp., expressed that because Lanesville was fortunate enough to start incorporating eLearning into its coursework six years ago, he believes they are well equipped to continue on with educating the students.

“Many of the guidelines recently produced by the state in developing a continuous learning plan we’ve done through our eLearning the past several years,” he said. “All of the students have utilized a 1:1 device for the past six years. I believe the governor’s decision is the right thing to do, but I feel extreme sadness and disappointment for the class of 2020 over their senior year ending in this manner.”

The school closures left many of the high school seniors wondering what this meant for the end of their time in school.

McCormick said that as long as seniors continue to participate in their current courses, they will get credit regardless of their final grade. Seniors will be able to graduate on time provided they had already met the rest of their diploma requirements.

That doesn’t take away from the fact that many seniors are missing out on major milestones, such as their final spring sports season, prom and, possibly, a public graduation ceremony.

Dr. Lance Richards, superintendent of the North Harrison Community School Corp., said his hope is to figure something out in the coming weeks to address these issues.

“My heart breaks for the seniors the most,” Richards said. “I can’t imagine what that is like to not be able to finish your senior year. I can’t imagine how a senior baseball, softball or any spring sport athlete feels having worked their life for their senior season and then not being able to play it.

“My hope is that we are at least going to figure something out for graduation,” he said. “We will do something. We haven’t officially canceled any of these events for our students; they are just indefinitely postponed until we can figure it out.”

Eastridge, Key and Morris also said they hope to figure something out for the seniors in terms of a graduation and that, hopefully, more updates will come soon.

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