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How some superintendents are making decisions during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 9:00 AM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 02:42:42-05

INDIANAPOLIS — As some schools in central Indiana switch to different learning schedules due to COVID-19 cases, superintendents are explaining how they're making these decisions and planning for winter.

As health officials warn people about the dark winter ahead, WRTV asked some local superintendents about they are preparing.

Dr. Shawn Smith, the superintendent at MSD of Lawrence Township, is reminding people they take extra precautions every year during the flu season. The district spends time to close some areas in schools for deep cleaning.

"But with COVID-19 there are just so many uncertainties," Smith said. "And I just want to compliment all of the health people I know in Marion County. We've worked very closely with the Marion County Health Department, Dr. Caine and her group. I am going to lean on the health professionals to give us guidance on what our next steps are going to be."

Aleesia Johnson, superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools, says they are also working closely with the health department and is updating its website daily with the latest COVID-19 numbers.

"I think for us we were able to make that investment in technology so that every single one of our students now has a device for family needs," Johnson said. "WiFi access, we've provided it so that if we need to shift the learning mode, we are able to do that. We are able to do that in a nimble way."

Families or students who needed a device or internet at MSD of Pike Township are getting the resources they need, Superintendent Dr. Flora Reichanadter said. One of the things she's worried about is the lack of available substitute teachers.

"We know that when we have to quarantine or if somebody is sick or with the flu and COVID-19, I'm getting a little nervous on days where we have a large number of people who are ill and the sub-pool is very small," Reichanadter said.

Dr. Jack Parker, superintendent of Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation, says the district is continuing to struggle to find substitute teachers.

"And of course, we've been finding substitutes more and more difficult to find for several years and this year is even harder to find substitutes to come into our buildings and help support and keep learning going," Parker said.

While there have been a lot of challenges for schools during the pandemic, the superintendents say they have learned some good things.

Johnson says it has proven to them what is possible even during a very challenging, impossible, position.

"We all found ways to creatively, responsively and responsibly, respond really quickly to this," she said. "So I am really proud, I think we've been able to demonstrate as public educators how flexible and how agile we can be."

This year has allowed educators to reimagine education, Reichanadter and Smith said.

"We weren't one-on-one and so know we are very close to it," Reichanadter said. "But what we're doing now, is being able to deliver instruction remotely for families who choose. And so, the great thing about that is that we have educational equity because nobody is left behind because of that."

Parker said educators have found new things that they will continue to do.

"Because, we've come up with some great, creative solutions that work and will endure beyond this pandemic," Parker said. "And our teachers are creative by nature, but their level of creativity to meet the needs, the incredibly diverse needs, growing even further apart during this time, is just amazing what they're doing for our kids."