The Warrick County School Board will soon consider options for reopening Warrick County School Corporation facilities in the fall.

The school board discussed the need to consider all available options to be able to finalize a plan for reopening the corporation’s 17 school buildings in their regular meeting on Monday, June 8. The board decided to further discuss opening in a public work session set for Monday, June 22, at 6 p.m. ahead of the regular School Board meeting at 7 p.m.

The discussion comes after the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) released guidance for corporations to consider when planning for the upcoming school year.

The IDOE released 2020-2021 school year COVID-19 reentry considerations on Friday, June 5. Indiana’s Considerations for Learning and Safe Schools (IN-CLASS) was developed in partnership with the Governor’s office, the Indiana State Department of Health, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, the Indiana High School Athletic Association, and IDOE’s Reentry Advisory Group, comprised of practitioners and professional organizations.

Warrick County School Corporation Superintendent Brad Schneider told the council that it will be imperative that any decision made involve room for changes and backup plans. He said the pandemic has continued to change and has made it difficult to make firm plans before school starts in August.

“There’s going to be a lot of things that change in that two month period of time So we’re looking at a lot of different planning strategies to address all the options that are available,” he said. “I think it’s very important that people understand, no decision has been made. As we look at these options, that doesn’t mean that’s the one we’re going to do.”

Schneider told the board that everyone will have to be flexible when considering the options available. He said the corporation is committed to make a decision based on available data.

“We are — as a school board, as administrators and as a school corporation — we’re going to have to be very flexible,” he said. “I do understand that people want to know right now, but we’re going to get all of the information, the best data possible, to make the best decision we can make.

Ultimately, Schneider said it will take time to find the best path for the corporation to take. He said some of the guidelines suggested in the IDOE’s

We have to analyze how we can implement a lot of the guidelines that are contained in INCLASS because I will be honest with you, they are not going to be easy and they’re not going to be cheap. The most important thing we have to do is to take care of the health and well being of our kids, of our staff and of our community. That is going to be priority one, priority two and priority three, in whatever plan we develop.”

Jeff Baker suggested the board meet in a work session once Schneider has had the opportunity to meet with various groups and seek further guidance. He said he agrees that everyone will have to go into the next school year with the ability to adapt.

“It is very important that parents understand that we don’t know how school’s going to begin and they need to be considering flexibility on their point too,” he said. “It’s not just our flexibility. The parents have to be flexible and support us in this process.”

Schneider said the corporation is sending letters to parents and is exploring the possibility of sending out questionnaires to get feedback from parents as part of the decision making process.

“We will continue to update parents as that process moves forward,” he said.

State Superintendent Dr. Jennifer McCormick said the guidance holds safety as the top priority.

“The health and safety of Hoosier students, school staff, and communities is priority one. Providing students with a quality education is critical and therefore it is crucial we offer considerations focused on getting students back in the classroom in a safe manner,”McCormick said. “Considering the many unknowns associated with COVID-19, we also recognize the importance of alternative learning opportunities. We appreciate the thoughtful and collaborative spirit in which IN-CLASS was developed.”

Following the announcement, the IHSAA released a statement regarding the return of fall sports.

“The Indiana High School Athletic Association, Inc. (IHSAA) is pleased that the COVID-19 Health and Safety ReEntry Guidance has been provided to Indiana schools today by the Governor’s Office and the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE),” the statement read. “This guidance also includes a three-phased pathway for the return of education-based athletics which coincide with the previously scheduled first practice date for girls golf (July 31) and practice for all other fall sports (August 3). Girls golf contests are set to begin August 3 with all other sports contests to begin August 15. Over the next several weeks, the IHSAA will continue to serve our member schools in providing clarifications and further guidance for the safe return of athletic activities in our state.”

To view the IN-CLASS reentry considerations, please visit: www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/news/june-5-class-document.pdf. For more information on IDOE’s commitment to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, including up-to-date resources, please visit: www.doe.in.gov/covid-19.

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