Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Duneland School Board approves 4-day in-person model to begin Monday, October 5

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By HEATHER AUGUSTYN

Duneland School families who select in-person instruction will send students to campus four days per week beginning Monday, October 5th, announced Superintendent Dr. Chip Petit during Monday night’s school board meeting.

Those who choose the remote model of instruction will remain virtual, though families may choose to switch to either in-person or remote learning during this shift.

“All students, both in-person and remote, will receive instruction on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Fridays. All students will work independently, via a traditional eLearning day, on Wednesdays due to the teaching constraints of preparing and providing instruction in two different instructional models,” stated Petit.

He said that the move to a 4-day in-person instructional model is one step closer to “having all students on campus” and it will ease “some of the difficulties in arranging for childcare.”

Though Chesterton High School announced on Sunday evening that a student had tested positive for COVID-19, Petit said the decision to loosen entry restrictions came as a result of area school initiatives. “To date, we have not seen entire school districts shut down and only a handful of schools have closed for up to two weeks at a time,” he said.

The move to four-day in-person instruction will not be without challenges, said Petit. “Realistically speaking, it will take three weeks to make this move. Families will be able to start requesting a change tomorrow [Tuesday, September 15] through a date to still be determined. This will be the only time during the fall semester that families will be able to change models.”

Because the change is part of the Reentry Plan, the move required no vote from the board and received few comments from the public.

Board member Alayna Lightfoot Pol questioned how the cafeteria would work with additional students in the same amount of space. Assistant Superintendent Robert McDermott responded that principals and staff would have to be diligent to separate students and if there are cases of COVID-19, contact tracing would be required.

Chesterton High School Senior Marina Weinberg commented, “I think if we are going to have more students at cafeteria tables, we will need barriers like other schools have for an extra layer of protection.”

Board member John Marshall asked about continuation of the 35-minute delay in the school day, and Petit responded that the intent is to maintain that delay for additional teacher prep time. Board President Brandon Kroft also asked about changes to bus service, but McDermott said he anticipates no changes.

During patron comments, resident Rick Wheeler expressed his appreciation to the board “with moving forward with the extra in-person school days,” and resident Beth Mehling made the request to “try to keep schedules as close to what they are, for teachers as well as students.”

After the meeting, Anne Stark, co-president of the Duneland Teachers Association stated, “The DTA agrees that the best instruction takes place in the classroom and our only concern is people with health issues and the potential spread. Increased numbers mean a decrease in social distancing in many situations, so that’s our concern.”

In other business, Chief Financial Officer Lynn Kwilasz received approval to advertise 2021 budgets, tax levies, tax rates, and 2021-2023 capital projects and 2021-2025 bus replacement plan. She said that the budgets will be presented for public comment on September 24, a public hearing will take place on October 5, and the budgets will be adopted at the November 2, 2020 board meeting.

Kwilasz said that the loss of students to other online academies and homeschool during the pandemic will impact the Duneland School budget. The level of funding from the state will not be known until the end of the Indiana State legislative session, she said, but expectations are that 2021 revenues will be cut across all state agencies and programs. She estimated reduction to DSC school funding in the 8%-10% range and the operations fund will be most impacted. The referendum fund will not offset losses to the operation fund, said Kwilasz.

Additionally, Petit announced that the Porter County Education Services Special Education Learning Facility (SELF) which has been closed due to the discovery of mold in the building this past summer is ready to open on September 23, instead of October 12, due to mitigation efforts.

The board also unanimously approved to enter into a contract with Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute to hire an additional athletic trainer during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a memorandum of understanding with Crown Counseling to provide therapeutic support for social and emotional learning.

They additionally voted to accept a $100,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security for secured school safety, an increase of $40,000 over last year.

The board similarly approved the teacher appreciation grant policy and approved on final reading revisions on board policies for Title IX nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities, release time for religious instruction, and suspension and expulsion of students.

In faculty and staff achievements Petit announced that two additional Duneland teachers have retired since this summer. Sixth grade WIS teacher Don Justak and CMS and CHS math teacher Karla Allmon were recognized by the board for their cumulative 73 years of service to the Duneland School Corporation.

Tammy Watkins, director of child nutrition services for the DSC and her staff received board recognition for her exceptional services during the pandemic in addition to their normal duties.

In student academic achievements, Kroft congratulated the six Chesterton High School students who were announced as National Merit Semi-finalists and they were presented with yard signs.

 

 

Posted 9/15/2/20

 
 
 
 

 

 

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