Schools to announce re-entry plans next week

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

When Gov. Eric Holcomb announced in April that K-12 schools would not reopen for the 2019-20 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it didn’t take long for people to start to wonder: What about the fall?

Three months later, Dubois County families will get the answer.

The four Dubois County school corporations — Greater Jasper, Northeast Dubois, Southeast Dubois and Southwest Dubois — have been working together to form re-entry plans for classes this fall. Dubbed the Dubois County School Re-entry Taskforce, the group has formed a draft re-entry plan that the Dubois County Health Department is reviewing. Following the health department’s approval, the four school boards will meet in a joint executive session this week to discuss the plans. Executive sessions are not open to the public.

On July 14, each school board will meet in the morning to give final approval to the plans, and the plans will be released to the public after those meetings.

“This is a work in progress,” Southeast Dubois Superintendent Jamie Pund said during the corporation’s school board meeting Wednesday night.

The school corporations announced that they would work together to form re-entry plans in May following the release of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Once the Indiana Governor’s Office and the Indiana Department of Education released their re-entry guidelines in June, the task force got to work. In late June, the roughly 50-person task force finalized the first draft of its plans and submitted them to the health department.

The decision to work together on a countywide plan made sense, Pund said, because the four school corporations interact often, especially at the high school level with sports and vocational classes for the juniors and seniors.

“Our juniors and seniors are traveling all the time to the other schools within the county,” Pund said.

The collaboration also allowed the large amount of research involved in creating the re-entry plan to be spread out and made it easier for school officials to discuss best practices to come up with the best options, Pund said.

Although the re-entry plan is scheduled for approval by each corporation’s school board next week, Pund pointed out that it will still be subject to change based on developments with the COVID-19 pandemic and guidance and mandates from the state.

“We keep saying this is a fluid document,” Pund said. “We will keep making revisions as it goes.”

As of now, the schools plan to start the 2020-21 school year on time in August, but what exactly that start looks like is still under discussion.

The corporations also worked together to form a re-entry plan for fall athletics and marching band. Those plans are finalized, though they are still subject to change according to developments with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of now, summer extracurricular practices can begin today with lots of restrictions in place. Some of the restrictions limit how many hours a week a student can be on campus, how often teams can hold practices and what activities can be done as social distancing is still a must. The plan also includes an extensive cleaning and sanitizing schedule that each corporation tailored to its needs.

The extracurricular re-entry plan includes three stages and follows the state guidelines. Phase I reopens larger facilities and allows practices to begin. Phase II is scheduled to begin July 20 and will allow the use of smaller facilities, such as locker rooms at 50% capacity. Phase III begins Aug. 15 and allows competitions to begin with spectators as long as social distancing is observed and federal, state and local guidelines are followed.

“We are ecstatic to bring the kids back,” Pund said. “But we also know that we have to take this slowly.”




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