Just days after Supt. Allen Bourff presented a back-to-school plan to the HSE Schools Board of Trustees, the district decided to provide only virtual instruction until at least Labor Day.
According to an email sent to HSE families, the district will adopt a phased reopening plan similar to the Back on Track plan implemented by Gov. Eric Holcomb for the state.
“Based on our local health indicators that are showing an increase in infections in our community and current staffing projections, the first phase will begin with all students attending school virtually,” the statement read.
Virtual instruction will begin Aug. 6 and continue through at least Labor Day. The statement said conditions will be monitored and the district will not move to the next phase until identified markers in collaboration with the Fishers Health Dept. have been met.
A four-phase reopening plan was set to be made available to families July 22. As of press time, it was not yet available.
In addition to virtual instruction, athletic programs and extracurricular activities will remain as part of the Phase 1 plan.
“Students participating in these summer programs will receive additional information from their building-level administrators,” the statement read. “The district is also working with the YMCA to develop a plan to make childcare available for those families who may need that service. We understand this is a change to our original plan, but we value the health and safety of our students, staff and families, and believe this will better meet the needs of the school community. We greatly appreciate your patience and flexibility during this time.”
For parents worried about child care, the district’s decision to pursue virtual learning might add extra stress, but some parents are relieved.
“As a single parent, it makes me nervous because I know child care issues are going to be a burden for a lot of us, but I also appreciate how intentional HSE has been in keeping students and staff safe,” Fishers resident Casey Cawthon said. Cawthon’s son, Caiden, is going to be a freshman at HSE High School next month.
Cawthon said her employer has been flexible when child care issues have been risen, and she hopes more employers do the same.
“I appreciate staying with eLearning because it doesn’t feel like Indiana has beat this yet,” she said.
When in-person classes were canceled in the spring, Cawthon said she and Caiden immediately established a household routine.
“We figured out when time was dedicated to work and school, and I would block off time on my work calendar when I was not available,” she said. “We maintained normalcy with breakfast, lunch and dinner schedules.”
However, because this will be Caiden’s first year at the high school, Cawthon said the virtual environment will still be a tough one to navigate.
“He doesn’t know what high school is like, so he’s going to have to face the high school experience virtually,” Cawthon said.
Caiden said HSE’s decision to only provide virtual learning is a good one. He was nervous about going back to school during the pandemic.
For more or to view the updated reopening plan, visit hseschools.org.
A fluid plan
At the July 8 school board meeting, HSE Supt. Allen Bourff said it would be impossible to satisfy all the different positions community members have in COVID-19 prevention. He also thanked the members of the district’s coronavirus task force, which has 50 members.
Bourff said the district shared its thoughts and ideas with task force members and received input and revised the plan, accordingly.
“Even on our task force, we saw a wide variety of positions, and we appreciate that,” he said. “I’ve been working on this plan with the superintendents from Hamilton County (school districts) and the president of Guerin High School and also the Options Charter School, and we have also consulted with other districts in the area. This has not been done in a vacuum.”
Bourff said there has been ongoing communication with the Fishers Health Dept.
“This plan I’m going to be talking about is not the final plan,” Bourff said. “I look for that to be revised, perhaps even this week. This plan is fluid based on fluid circumstances we are all dealing with as the CDC comes up with new findings. Positions change at the health departments, and that affects some of the positions we need to take.”