The Duneland School
Board approved a plan to reopen schools in a traditional in-person format
that allows flexibility for families amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Superintendent Dr. Chip Pettit and Assistant Superintendent Robert McDermott
gave a brief presentation outlining how the plan was formed and explaining
what changes have been made in response to community feedback. The new plan
will be emailed to Duneland parents today with changes highlighted in green,
Pettit began by
thanking the 91 members of the Duneland reentry team who worked on the plan,
almost half of whom were teachers. “The plan as presented has been developed
by synthesizing information from the medical community; listening to our own
community, staff, families, and other Porter school districts; and by
analyzing research-based best practices,” Pettit said. He emphasized that
the plan will continue to be updated as the COVID-19 situation changes.
McDermott said 80
percent of Duneland families indicated they wanted school to start in-person
in the fall, 17 percent said they would only send their students back for
remote learning, and three percent said they would not send their students
back at all, based on a survey that garnered 5,972 responses.
After the first
draft of the plan was sent to families and made public July 1, the
Administration made changes based on 2,896 comments it received in response
to the plan. Mask usage was a main concern of those who commented on the
draft plan, with 54 percent of them responding that there was not enough
mask usage required, and 47 percent saying the level of mask usage proposed
in the draft was excessive, McDermott said.
Pettit said the
level system in the plan was changed from a five-tier system to a four-tier
system, for clarity, and a chart summarizing all the major elements of the
plan has been included. Level 4 would mean schools have to close due to
COVID-19 and all learning would be remote. Parents can choose either
in-person or remote learning for their students at Levels 2 and 3, when
COVID-19 may be active but the Administration determines along with the
Porter County Health department that in-person instruction is still safe.
Level 1 would represent an effective end of the pandemic and return to
At threat Level 3,
all students and staff would be required to wear masks and social distance.
At Level 2, masks would be worn when social distancing is not possible.
Teachers will be allowed, however, to require mask usage in their classrooms
at any level. The schools will also undergo nightly deep cleanings,
Board member John
Marshall asked if DSC has had any trouble acquiring supplies, and McDermott
said DSC has been very proactive in buying supplies whenever they find a
good deal. “At this point in time, we believe we have all the supplies we
need,” McDermott said. DSC has amassed approximately 55,000 masks, 15
barrels of sanitation solution for deep cleanings, and 800 gallons of hand
sanitizer, he added. Board President Brandon Kroft said the work that went
into the plan and the detailed feedback from the community was
continued giving feedback last night, as 12 people, mostly Duneland parents
or teachers, asked questions and made comments before the plan was approved.
Among their concerns were ventilation in school building, locker
use/security, staff safety, substitute teacher availability, contact
tracing, COVID-19 testing, and remote learning accountability.
that all of Duneland’s active substitute teachers, save a few, have
communicated that they’ll return this year, and that security measures will
still be in place even though locker usage will be limited and many students
will be carrying their supplies with them throughout the day.
A parent asked if
parents will be notified of positive cases. McDermott said the Health
Department will conduct contact tracing and families who may be affected by
a positive case will be notified, though the School is precluded by law from
releasing information about people who test positive.
asked about remote learning accountability, saying she heard “horror
stories” of teachers who weren’t available to students this spring. Pettit
said new accountability requirements will be in place for both teachers and
students, and DSC will do its best to provide added support for teachers.
McDermott said that
plans are in the works to help teachers prepare for the new learning
environment via talks with the Duneland Teacher’s Association. Later, a
representative of DTA thanked those who worked on the plan and commended the
Administration’s transparency and listening ear. “Not only did they seek the
input of the DTA and the community, but they listened to our concerns, and
they adapted the draft to include those concerns in tonight’s presentation,”
A CHS Science
teacher asked how DSC will be accommodating teachers who have preexisting
conditions or may be at higher risk of COVID-19. McDermott said the HR
department will be reaching out to staff soon and accommodations will be
made on a case-by-case basis. There’s potential that teachers at high-risk
could become remote learning teachers, depending on how many students end up
in the remote learning model, he said.
A CHS English
teacher asked for more specific criteria on what will warrant another school
closure. “Shouldn’t we decide how many sick people is too many before we
start getting sick people?”, he asked.
acknowledged that question has been coming up a lot, but the County Health
Department believes it is too subjective to quantify. “They believe working
with them and with the DOE and State health department is best, so we didn’t
feel comfortable putting a set amount of illnesses there,” McDermott said.
“Your point is well taken, and we’ll continue to work on that.”
“You’ve got a Board
that’s looking at these numbers every day. I personally have a chart I’ve
been looking at every day for three months,” Kroft added, for his part.
“Trust me, you have Board members that care and are paying attention. Four
of the five Board members have kids in the buildings, myself included.”
Kroft said if or
when another closure is necessary, the decision will be made “without