NEW MARKET — As more is learned about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its effects, schools are beginning to develop re-entry plans for full-time attendance due to low rates of spread between students.
A hybrid model of attendance was adopted by Southmont and other county schools in late July to mitigate spread and keep positive infection rates low, but COVID-19 indicators show it may be time to consider moving back to full-time, in-person instruction, Superintendent Dr. Shawn Greiner said.
“Locally, it’s being reported that we’re not seeing transitions in the schools,” he said Monday during a regular district meeting. “The transitions that you do see are more family-group related.”
The board, in collaboration with the Teachers Association and the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD), also looks at the updated map of Indiana — broken down by county — featured on the state health department’s novel coronavirus online dashboard (www.coronavirus.in.gov).
“It provides clear guidance to schools. Right now, Montgomery County is currently yellow — yellow means that in-person instruction is acceptable,” Greiner reported. “We’ve heard that they’re moving it to blue shortly — blue means that there’s minimal community spread (and) is the least concern.
“But even at yellow we are comfortable moving forward, or discussing moving forward, and the health department is right there working alongside us.”
Schools in nearby counties have returned to in-person instruction full time, including districts in Hendricks and Tippecanoe counties that show higher rates of infection.
Members of the Crawfordsville school board reported as recently as last week that they intend to reunite all students with campus as soon as possible, and are working week-to-week with Southmont and North Montgomery.
The three districts have been coordinating efforts since COVID-19 first shut down school in March. They share programs and joint extra-curricular activities, and all have indicated they intend to bring students back to campus.
“This may occur within the next few weeks,” Greiner said, adding that more information concerning the developing plan will be delivered to Southmont families by Friday. “The health department is comfortable with us considering full return because we have the ability to close classrooms as opposed to the entire building — or close sections as opposed to the entire building. (We can also) close the school for a couple weeks rather than the whole district.
“Given that, as well as our schools now being experienced involving protocols and procedures to manage positive cases and mitigate spread, they are comfortable with us starting to develop that plan for full re-entry.”
Greiner reported, as found on the online dashboard, that Montgomery County has a 5.49-percent positivity rate per the seven-day rolling average. Nine percent or above, he said, is a signal for concern.
“You can see even that number is one that looks favorable,” he said.
Board President Brad Monts was also in favor of developing a full re-entry plan, saying district personnel have made it a real possibility.
“The work that the administrators and working with the health department and teachers — I think this has been a very positive year,” he said, “and has made it so that we could get where we are today.”
The next regularly scheduled public meeting for Southmont Schools is 6 p.m. Oct. 12 at the administrative office, 6425 S. U.S. 231.
In other business, the board:
• Received a presentation from the Southmont Sr. High choir. The group, which includes some eighth-grade students, is 25 strong and is preparing for a full fall concert at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at the school.
• Announced free breakfasts and lunches to all students. The district plans to begin in Ladoga as early as Monday. Families will be able to pick up 10 meals at a time per student.
• Approved multiple NEOLA policies upon second reading.