GCSC to delay start of school by one week

Monday, July 27, 2020

Greencastle school officials are hopeful a delay of one week will help families, teachers and administrators as they gear up for the coming school year, with its option of online or in-person learning.

On Monday evening, the Greencastle School Board approved moving the start of school from Wednesday, Aug. 5 to Wednesday, Aug. 12.

With school officials learning more about the ever-changing COVID-19 situation and adjusting their plans as they learn, GCSC Superintendent Jeff Gibboney is hopeful the extra week will give families time to make an informed decision.

“We feel like with the updates, with the additional information we are providing, that families might need some additional time to make the best decisions for their students,” Gibboney said.

These updates pertain to handbooks being prepared for virtual learners at the elementary and middle school/high school levels regarding the option of learning virtually.

The virtual learning option was introduced at a recent special school board meeting, with students having the option to pursue traditional, in-person learning, with masks and social distancing, or to learn virtually from home.

Assistant Superintendent Jennifer French, who remains the curriculum director even after her title changed Monday, said the school reopening committee was set to convene Tuesday morning to approve the handbooks.

The hope was that the handbooks would be live on the GCSC website as of Tuesday afternoon.

At this point, the adjustment to the calendar will not change any of GCSC’s scheduled breaks for the 2020-21 academic calendar. It will simply extend the school year an extra five days at the end of second semester.

“I think the one week is reasonable,”Gibboney said. “It also keeps us pretty much in line with other Putnam County students because we have students who attend Area 30 and we don’t want them to fall behind.”

While more details regarding virtual learning will be available once the handbooks are published, French provided some information Monday.

She pointed out that while virtual students will be required to be engaged in learning for a time period that mirrors the school day, they will not be required to spend the entire time online, as they will be given activities and assignments to be performed offline.

Additionally, options will be available to learn in real time with teachers and other students as well as in pre-taped segments for students whose schedules may not allow for a synchronous experience.

French said special attention was paid to how virtual learning will look for elementary students.

“This was the one that was giving us the most trouble because our elementary students are not independent learners,” French said.

However, she is hopeful that through a variety of virtual learning tools, the in-school experience will be mirrored as closely as possible, including weekly connections with teachers and other students.

Middle school and high school students will utilize the Edgenuity program for their virtual learning.

Middle school will focus on math, English, science and social studies, with electives. High school students’ courses will be based on their graduation plan.

“Virtual students will have access to the same services and supports that on-campus students do,” French said.

The school has also updated its policy regarding changing from virtual to in-person learning, or vice versa. One change will be allowed.

“We understand that things change and things come up but we want to limit it to one change because we want to limit the workload of our teachers,” French said.

Additionally, while there is a mandate regarding access to high-speed internet for virtual learners, this can be accommodated by simply visiting one of the WiFi hotspots outside schools or at community partners once a day. In this way, information could be uploaded and downloaded as needed, with the work completed at home.

Regarding mask use at school, Gibboney said officials were still reviewing the mandate from Gov. Eric Holcomb and that administrators would be taking part in a Tuesday conference call with state officials regarding the matter.

Additionally, the school corporation is hiring two additional medical professionals — either certified nursing assistants or licensed practical nurses — to help during the coming school year.

Anyone interested in such a position should contact Gibboney at 653-9771 or jgibboney@greencastle.k12.in.us or high school/middle school nurse Polly Shuee at pshuee@greencastle.k12.in.us.

Information and updates regarding the school’s COVID-19 response is available at www.greencastle.k12.in.us/covid-19_roadmap.

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