Education

In-person classes to continue at schools

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Crawfordsville will continue in-person classes as long as enough staff is available and the coronavirus does not pass from one person to another in the schools, according to the district’s latest guidance on COVID-19.

County school leaders are regularly meeting with the health department to discuss a unified approach to keeping schools open as coronavirus cases rise and more students and staff are placed under quarantine.

“At least right now, that’s the page that we’re on — is that until there’s a lot more in-school transmission, we’re going to try to tough this out,” Crawfordsville superintendent Dr. Scott Bowling said during a school board meeting Thursday.

If schools have to switch to e-learning, Bowling added, classes would likely move fully online — with no hybrid option — for only a couple of a weeks before in-person instruction resumes. Bowling cautioned those plans could change.

Administrators have seen little evidence that children are transmitting the virus to other students or adults in the schools, based on contact tracing of positive cases. Crawfordsville schools urged families to limit social gatherings.

“I can’t think of a case that we worked where it hasn’t been that they’ve gotten it from home or gotten it from a social event,” Bowling said.

Most local schools have reported less than five positive cases among students, teachers or staff, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. The database is updated each Monday.

But the rising number of quarantines presents a staffing challenge, as aides step in to supervise classrooms.

The same number of substitutes as last year are on staff at Crawfordsville, but not as many of them are working. Schools are appealing to college students returning home from campus to apply.

A Crawfordsville Middle School teacher currently under quarantine is continuing to teach virtually.

“So that’s our first foray into that form of education, where the kids are here but the teacher’s at home,” Bowling said.

The cost of implementing COVID-related safety measures in Crawfordsville schools has reached six figures, according to the district.

More than $100,000 has been spent so far on protective measures and electronic devices for distance learning.

The district sought reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which declined to cover the cost of the devices, Bowling said.

Administrators don’t expect FEMA to pick up much of the rest, echoing concerns from other state and local officials.

In August, news outlet Education Week reported that the National Governors Association sent a letter to FEMA demanding the agency continue reimbursing schools for COVID-related expenses.

FEMA, in a statement to Education Week, did not confirm whether schools qualified for reimbursement.

The district has received coronavirus-relief funding through the CARES Act and other grants.

In other business, the board:

• Reviewed the annual collective bargaining agreement, which includes an $1,100 base pay increase for all teachers. Teachers will also receive a dual-credit stipend of $250 per class per semester for courses that require a content-area master’s degree. The board will ratify the contract in a virtual meeting at 6 p.m. Sunday in order to meet the state’s deadline.

• Approved the retirement of transportation director Kevin Fischer effective June 1.

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