Superintendent Dr. Chip Pettit is planning to delay the start of school for
two weeks and open Duneland Schools in a hybrid in-person/remote learning
model to facilitate social distancing.
School was slated
to start tomorrow, Wednesday, Aug. 12, but will now start Aug. 25 in light
of Porter County’s recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases and new
recommendations from the CDC, Indiana State Department of Health, and Porter
County Health Department, Pettit said.
After the CHS
graduation ceremony had to be canceled at the recommendation of the County
Health Department, all agencies aligned in recommending masks, and the CDC
“doubled-down” on the importance of social distancing, Pettit said it became
clear to Duneland’s Administration that schools could not open without the
possibility of social distancing, and, as the Administration said before,
social distancing would not be possible with most students in Duneland
classrooms on a given day.
model would have students with last names A to K and students with last
names L to Z attending schools on alternating days and learning remotely on
days they’re not in school. Students A to K will attend schools in-person on
Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Students L to Z will attend schools on Thursdays
and Fridays. The two groups will alternate spending Mondays on campus so
each group gets five in-person instructional days every two weeks.
The Duneland School
Board was supportive of Pettit’s plan at its meeting last night. Members
were glad the plan strikes a balance between offering in-person learning and
“There is no
substitute for in-person learning, so being able to use a hybrid model gives
us the ability to change at a moment’s notice and go fully in-person as soon
as possible, it seems to me,” said Board member John Marshall. Board
Vice-President Ron Stone agreed. Board member Tom Schnabel also said some
in-person instruction should make learning easier on both students and
Brandon Kroft said, “We’re pivoting because we have to. Guidelines are
changing. Numbers are changing.”
Families may still
change their preferences by Friday, Aug. 14. But, currently, 68 percent of
Duneland parents have opted for students to attend in-person. Pettit said if
that number holds or stays under 80 percent, students should be able to
remain distant at all times using the hybrid model.
“In a 25 student
classroom, if 32 percent opt remote, class size is down to 17. If then
students with last names A to K are in school one day and L to Z are in
school another day, we’re now down to 8.5 students in the room on a daily
basis. This will help us adhere to social distancing,” Pettit said.
that the new model will be a “big lift” for teachers, but teachers are being
given extra time for planning and professional development.
“Knowing that a
clear majority of our community prefers an in-person learning environment
and the CDC, Indiana State Department of Health and the Porter County Health
Department all have provided recommendations to safely reopen schools, we
are compelled to develop a delivery model that brings students to campus,”
Pettit said. “With that in mind, the guidelines are changing by the week. We
will continue to adjust as needed, and we hope the hybrid model provides a
way to not just open our schools, but to keep them open.”
distancing, there is a good chance that one case could close the school,”
said Assistant Superintendent Robert McDermott. With social distancing, he
said, one student who tests positive won’t require self-isolating large
groups who may have been in close contact with that student--close contact
being defined by the CDC and PCHD as within six feet of each other for 15
minutes or more.
Six people made
public comments following Pettit’s presentation. Margo Machnik was concerned
about remote learning accountability and asked about live-streaming classes.
Stephanie Wade, a parent of two special needs students, was concerned
students with special needs are falling through the cracks as plans change.
Rob Peters asked for clarity on data points being used to make the
One parent, who
left the meeting before the Chesterton Tribune could get her name,
thanked the Administration and the Board. “I just wanted to thank all of you
for continuing to take into consideration what the parents want. I know you
guys are in a horrible position, and you can’t make everybody happy,” she
Kroft noted the
public comment section of the meeting is not intended as a question and
answer session, but he encouraged parents to contact him or the
Administration with questions. “I have answered personally every single
email that’s been sent to me by a parent,” he said.