Washington Township School Reopening Goes 100% Virtual for Students

On July 13th, 2020 at 8am, the Washington Township School Board met for a special board meeting via a Zoom call. This was a “Special Public” board meeting and all Washington Township families were sent the Zoom information. At some point the Zoom call reached capacity and not all parents were able to listen in.

The Washington Township Reopening of Schools Plan 2020 (see below) was announced last week and the messaging sent about this special board meeting had a lot of parents wondering if Washington Township would be pulling the plug on the virtual learning track or even the July 30th return to school. The communication with parents reads, “The WT School Board will vote on a resolution impacting the reopening of schools. All Washington Township Staff and Families are encouraged to listen to the public special board meeting on Monday, July 13 at 8:00 AM. ”

Verbiage about voting on a “resolution impacting the reopening of schools” was alarming for many who felt everything was a done deal with the Washington Township Reopening of Schools Plan 2020. However when the plan was announced it was indicated that this situation was fluid and would take place as such unless otherwise directed due to COVID-19.

Principal Branigan from North Central High School sent out an alert on Sunday to NC families that said, “All school/district sponsored activities, athletics and programs held on Washington Township property are canceled for Monday July 13th. This includes all NC athletic practices and Panther Quest (the freshman orientation event). Thank you for your understanding. Additional information will be forthcoming.”

It’s the “additional information” statement that prompted two sources to reach out to Indy with Kids with information. One source reported that the teachers union is fearful about the nationwide shortage of supplies that are necessary to keep school sanitized and safe for children AND teachers. For this reason, one source indicates that they would like to propose that all learning take place via virtual classrooms for the month of August, allowing for the supply chain to level out. Another source tells us that they have proposed waiting until after Labor Day for school to begin. A Facebook group made up of parents and teachers is calling for the safe return to schools only take place after there are 14 days of zero COVID-19 cases in the county that the school is located.

Indy with Kids published live updates from this meeting about the resolution.

Live Updates from the Board Meeting on July 13 (Developing)

Resolution regarding the reopening of schools was read, it was regarding a basis to move to an all virtual opening of schools for a period of time.

  • Face mask coverings are mandated at this time
  • Increases in COVID cases in Marion County
  • Schools have been asked to resume on the federal, state and local level while recognizing the discretion of local school boards to make the final decisions
  • Board of Education tentatively approved reopening plan pending further input from stakeholders and public health officials
  • District recognize that delaying the in person start creates adverse financial impacts on the district, the district presently believes those risks are outweighed by the benefits of delaying in person instruction at this time

Proposed:

  1. Board of Education postpones the reopening plan as shared on July 6 and reopens online learning only beginning on July 30.
  2. The Board of Education will evaluate public health metrics for Marion County at it’s regularly scheduled board meetings and decide when to begin implementation of the Washington Township Reopening of Schools Plan 2020 (see below)
  3. Should in person resume with the Washington Township Reopening of Schools Plan 2020 (see below), there will be 2 weeks notice to families.
  4. During the online learning period, all staff will report to school in person for their respective normal schedules with the previously communicated COVID 19 Workplace Safety Procedures and Protocols in place. Certain positions may have modified roles.
  5. All in person district athletics, extracurricular and pro-curricular activities are suspended. Including programs that have already started, or postponed or have not started.
  6. Use of district buildings and facilities will be suspended for all outside groups.
  7. Current students enrolled in CT Bridge Program program will be allowed to complete the certification in-person program checks through July 28, 2020.
  8. The Superintended or their designee is authorized to make modifications to contracts as necessary for services not needed to support virtual learning.
  9. All trips for students and staff are suspended until further notice from the district.

There was a motion and a second, followed by statements from a board member.

It was mentioned that in addition to feedback and the proposal by the WTEA, there was a student petition.

A statement from Dr. Woodson asked for patience from families as they now need to plan differently. She asks that people give them a few more days to work out the logistics and details. Dr. Woodson acknowledged that this would ignite a new set of questions. They will get out more detailed in the upcoming days.

Board Member, Tony Dzwonar said this is the most difficult decision he has been a part of but the issues are well known and well founded. He has concern for those students and families they aren’t hearing from. His concern for equity weights heavily on him. He shared other concerns for teachers and students in various areas as well as the division even among medical professionals and all of the unknowns in both sides. He said it’s a close call for him with regard to his vote but he weighs a little heavier on one side.

Board members shared their personal connections to COVID, educators and other concerns for teachers and students.

It’s very clear from the stories and thoughts shared by board members that they have really spent a lot of time processing and thinking about this decision.

It was mentioned that while other schools and districts may continue to do their sports, Washington Township will not be a part of that if this resolution passes.

Motion carries 3 yes, 2 no.

President: Mr. John P. Fencl: No

Vice President: Dr. Wanda Thruston: Yes

Secretary: Mr. Anthony S. Dzwonar: No

Member: Mr. William Turner: Yes

Member: Mr. Donald B. Kite, Sr.: Yes

Statement from the WT Board of Education:

MSD Washington Township School Board policy provides that in making any decision board members must always think of our students first. While we do so today, we have also considered what in our judgment is in the best interest of our students’ families and of our dedicated faculty, staff, and administration and their families.

As the global coronavirus continues, and through July 11, 2020, approximately 134,000 Americans have died and over 3,213,000 million have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. This past weekend the Marion County (Indiana) Health Department announced that over 51,000 Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID 19 and that approximately 2,500 Hoosiers have died from the virus. On Saturday, July 11, 2020, it was also reported that Indiana, for the second day in a row, had seen its highest single-day increase in cases since early May.

Experts caution that students themselves may become infected and that even if they do not become seriously ill they may pass the virus to adults with whom they reside, including those who are immunocompromised or are vulnerable for other reasons. We acknowledge in this regard that our African American families are particularly at risk.

While the Administration has worked tirelessly on a school reopening plan, when the Board recently approved the plan it acknowledged that our situation was fluid. The Board observed that its school reopening plan would be implemented whenever students returned to their classrooms. The Administration has collaborated with the WTEA, surveyed families regarding their thoughts, and asked families to indicate whether they wished to opt for e-learning or returning to a traditional classroom.

Given the unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in, we have received significant feedback from our students’ family members and our educators regarding what our District’s response should be to the Coronavirus. This feedback has encouraged the Board to review a wide variety of options representing the full spectrum of potential choices. Many of these choices present valid concerns and even compelling reasons to take action one way or another. The Board is in a difficult position given limited specific guidance from the Governor, the Mayor, and public health officials. We appreciate the engagement of our stakeholders and the perspectives which they have offered during this difficult time.

While several of the most significant numeric and statistical measures relating to the coronavirus continue to rise, and while we understand our continuing responsibility to address students’ educational, social and emotional needs, it is the Board’s judgment that the best course of action in the near term is not to have students return to the classroom while coronavirus indicators increase. Therefore, while we will reopen beginning July 30, as previously decided, today the Board has voted that all classes will be virtual until the Board determines otherwise. At each of our upcoming Board meetings we will carefully examine where we are locally in the fight against the coronavirus as we consider when students may return to the classroom.

The MSD Washington Township School Board firmly believes that its decision is in the best interests of Washington Township’s over 11,000 students, our faculty, staff and administration, and the families of each of these groups. The Board believes that its decision is the best course of action in the near term in response to what we are experiencing locally regarding the coronavirus.


Reopening Plan as Offered on July 6, 2020

As of July 6th, it was announced that Washington Township (WT) Schools will reopen following the normal calendar for instruction 5 days per week along with all Marion County Public Schools, unless directed otherwise due to COVID-19. Last week, we shared the Noblesville Schools Reopening Plan.

The information below is a high level overview of key points to the reopening plan. To see the 16 page document in full, click here. There is a live reopening of schools information presentation on Wednesday, July 8 at 5pm. This meeting will take place via Zoom. Parents are invited to submit questions by 12 noon on Wednesday to mwilson@msdwt.k12.in.us

*Please note that all items covered below are subject to exceptions established by MCPHD. Exceptions are allowed with documentation to supervisor for staff or to school nurse for students.

Online Learning Option

For parents not comfortable sending their students to school for instruction at this time, a virtual learning option called the WT Virtual Academy will be available for all students PK-12. Students in grades K-8 will commit to the Virtual Learning Academy for a quarter/9 week grading period. Students in grades 9-12 will commit to the Virtual Learning Academy for a semester at a time.

Masks/Face Coverings

Staff and students are required to wear face covering when social distancing of 3-6 feet is not possible both inside and outside on school property and using school equipment such as buses.

COVID or Illness and School Closures

If a student or staff member has a confirmed COVID-19 case, they are advised to follow the directions from their health care provider. Washington Township Schools will follow the steps outlined by MCDPH for confirmed COVID-19 cases. A school or multiple school closures are possible due to continued concerns from COVID-19. Public schools are under the direction of the Governor’s office, the Mayor’s office and the Health Department since COVID-19 is a public health issue. These government agencies would issue closure notices for one or more schools. School closure due to COVID-19 is not a local decision. In the event of a school closure, students enrolled in Virtual Academy will remain in Virtual Academy. Students who are not in Virtual Academy will complete assignments via Canvas led by their in-person teachers.

Meals/Cafeteria

Elementary students will have breakfast and lunch provided in the classrooms when possible or in the cafeteria at reduced capacity. Secondary students will have breakfast and lunch served traditionally in the cafeteria with social distancing modifications and face coverings should be worn by staff or students when they are not eating.

School Bus/Transportation

Parents/guardians are encouraged to transport their students to school per Marion County Health Department. All students and staff on school buses are required to wear a face covering because social distancing is not possible.

Classrooms

Generally speaking, social distancing of 3-6 feet will be implemented when possible, and face coverings required when social distancing is not possible. Additionally, shared materials will be minimized, and extra opportunities for hand washing will be scheduled. Staff and students are required to wear a face covering when social distancing of 3-6 feet is not possible both inside and outside on school property and using school equipment such as buses. Classroom learning will not include the use of pods or table style seating when possible.

  • Elementary School: ○ Physical education will take place outdoors when possible. ○ Special area teachers will clean high-touch areas and materials between classes. ○ Classroom seating will be spread out as much as possible. Pulling groups of students together will be limited. ○ There should be no indoor group or ensemble singing – weather permitting this should take place exclusively outdoors. ○ Students will continue to go to the library and check out books.

Playgrounds & Recess

Playgrounds will be open during the day for students to use for a limited number of students at a time.

Visitors & Field Trips

Non-essential visitors will no be permitted on campus. All field/study trips during the school day will be eliminated.

Extracurricular Activities/Athletics/Performing Arts for Grades 6-12

  • Band/Orchestra: ○ Woodwind and Brass Instruments should not be shared. ○ If String instruments must be shared, they should be disinfected between use. ○ Percussion students should not share mallets without properly disinfecting them, unless students are wearing gloves. ○ Students will be assigned times to pick up and return instruments from lockers to encourage social distancing. ○ Class may occur in a gymnasium whenever PE classes are outside.
  • Choir ○ There should be no indoor group or ensemble singing. Weather permitting, this should take place exclusively outdoors. ○ Class may occur in a gymnasium whenever PE classes are outside
  • Physical Education○ PE teachers will create scheduled locker room access in order to allow students to socially distance as much as possible while changing in and out of PE uniforms. ○ PE will be taught outside whenever the weather permits, and the heat index is between 50 degrees and 85 degrees
  • Athletics will restart under a three phase plan. The three phase plan is based on guidance from the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) and the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA)

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