Local school superintendents say they appreciate Gov. Eric Holcomb's decision to cancel classes through May 1, saying the decision on what to do was proving to be too great a burden to bear.
“I appreciate the direction he's given on this,” said Vincennes Community School Corp. superintendent Greg Parsley. “I think we were all looking for guidance and leadership, and he provided that.
“And I think it was inevitable,” Parsley said with a sigh. “The realization is, as much as we would have all liked to have gone back on April 6, we weren't likely to make it to that date.”
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased to 365 on Tuesday, the governor held tight to his order to ask all Hoosiers to “stay home,” effective through April 7, although that could be extended.
Superintendents say they'll be glad to head back to the classroom on May 1 if given the all-clear — even though there would only be a few days left on the school calendar.
They say coming back together, if only for a few weeks, would provide a sense of comfort and closure to teachers and students alike given the trauma that likely went along with being quarantined for so long.
“The sooner we can return to some kind of normalcy, even if it's for a short time, is best,” Parsley said. “Having that structure back in place will help them.
“It's not a lot of days, no, but it would bring us all some closure.”
Tim Grove, superintendent of the South Knox School Corp., agreed that going back, if only for a few weeks, would be a good thing for students and teachers. They've already had to cancel prom, and Grove said he would hate to have to cancel graduation ceremonies as well.
School is about a lot more than just learning, he said; the traditions matter just as much to the overall experience.
“We need some kind of closure to this,” he said. “If the governor says we won't go back at all this year, then he's essentially saying it's over right now, regardless of how many e-learning days we need to do.
“He would essentially close the books on the school year.”
The school superintendents are now struggling to make the best use out of e-learning days, something many of them were only beginning to experiment with.
The governor has currently granted all K-12 schools a 20-day waiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but several days will need to be made up through e-learning regardless.
Exactly what that will look like is what many administrators are still struggling to figure out.
For the month of April, Parsley said they would likely use some waiver days and some e-learning days. Currently, it looks like Mondays would be for teacher preparation and then Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays would come with e-learning assignments.
Friday would then be another waiver day.
“We will work through some models, see what works best,” Parsley said. “But flexibility will be key.”
He added that most e-learning assignments will need to be turned in within three days.
He would also love to see teachers experiment in the coming weeks with somehow engaging their classes through the use of technology, perhaps Zoom, video software that several corporations have gone to in the wake of the widespread shutdown associated with COVID-19.
North Knox superintendent Darrel Bobe said he, too, is leaning toward a similar, 3-day-a-week e-learning model.
He is also working on ways to assist those students who might not have devices on which to do e-learning assignments — or even internet access.
Chromebooks have already been offered to those students who need them.
Bobe also plans to offer internet hot spots at the junior-senior high school parking lot. It might not be ideal, but students would be able to come to the parking lot, gain access to high-speed internet and do their homework on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 5-7 pm.
“The important thing to me is, if we're going to do this, we have to understand that we may have individuals who don't have devices or maybe just a phone,” Bobe said.
“This is a pretty big deal for us,” he said. “It's the first time we've done any of this, but it's important that we're able to provide education for our students.”
Grove said he will meet on Friday with his fellow administrators to plan a way forward, but he, too, expects some kind of “blend” of waiver and e-learning days moving forward toward May 1.