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
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.”
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.