Despite the Marion County Health Dept. allowing schools to return to in-person instruction as early as Jan. 4, the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township stuck to its original plan of returning to in-person learning on Jan. 19.
MSDLT Director of Communications Dana Altemeyer said the decision was made to allow the district more time to plan its approach to in-person education.
“The logistics involved in shifting that day are significant,” Altemeyer said. “The day (the health department) made that announcement, we had already started the process of who wanted to come back instead of remain fully virtual. It was going to be complex to move that up by two weeks, also not knowing what was going to happen with (COVID-19) numbers those coming weeks.”
Beginning Jan. 19, students in kindergarten through sixth grade will have the option to attend school fully in-person or fully virtual. For grades seven through 12, students have the option of fully virtual learning or participating in a hybrid model, in which half of the students are on the campus two days a week, the other half attend classes the other two days a week, and Fridays are fully virtual.
Altemeyer said MSDLT offered a full virtual option at the start of the school year, but on Nov. 23,2020, the district was required to go fully virtual at the direction of the Marion County Health Dept. Teachers taught students virtually from their respective school building. The district also was granted a waiver from the Marion County Health Dept. to allow up to 10 percent capacity in school buildings for students receiving ancillary services that couldn’t be provided in a fully virtual environment. Those students, such as those who receive special education services, were not receiving their instruction in-person because they were still participating in virtual instruction, but they were receiving the virtual instruction while in the school building under supervision of an instructional assistant.
During the timeframe in which students received all their instruction through a virtual method, MSDLT offered food pickup for families as well. Those services will continue during the virtual days of instruction when the school returns to a hybrid model.
“We have continued the (mitigation) protocols since our facilities reopened July 1, so nothing really changed, so it will be a continuation of what we were doing in the past,” Altemeyer said. “There’s an enhanced cleaning plan in place that has remained in effect, because the buildings haven’t been closed.”
Other mitigation efforts, such as wearing PPE, social distancing and the use of plastic dividers, also will continue. All students have been provided with their own electronic devices to facilitate in-person and virtual learning.
“If needed, the district has a hot spot and we made those hotspots available to families who need them at the beginning of the school year,” Altemeyer said. “We weren’t fully 1-to-1 technology (before the pandemic), but we had the plan in place, so that plan was put in overdrive to make it happen.”
For more, visit ltschools.org.
Above and beyond
The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township will return to in-person instruction on Jan. 19, district officials appreciate the teachers’ dedication to their students throughout all the learning challenges.
Indian Creek Elementary Principal Kevin Kemper lauded one teacher’s efforts in an email.
“As a virtual teacher, Mrs. (LaMonica) Henson’s mission from day one was to ensure that the students at home have the same experience as the students that are in person and to not let COVID get in the ways of her students experiencing a normal school year,” the email read. “Mrs. Henson has gone above and beyond to provide her families the materials and supplies needed to participate in all hands-on learning experiences that occur in typical year. These experiences include raising a tadpole, hatching a butterfly, growing their own plant, building their own gingerbread man and making apple pie. Mrs. Henson has even at times gone out of her way to deliver these needed supplies to families that could not make the drive through pick-up. All of this is in addition to her daily lessons, which include providing live online instruction, conferencing with students and creating videos lessons.”