Noblesville Schools administrators know their reopening plan is likely to change as the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve.
Just days after releasing the Return to School plan, the district modified it to alternate days for middle and high school students.
Students will return to school Aug. 3, and elementary students who choose in-person instruction will attend each regularly scheduled day. Middle and high school students who choose in-person instruction will attend on a 50 percent schedule, alternating the school days with eLearning at home.
Supt. Beth Niedermeyer said the district has worked with the Indiana State Dept. of Health, the Indiana Dept. of Education, the CDC and the Hamilton County Health Dept. since spring to remain aware of all the changes.
“It has been just a huge comprehensive process,” she said. “We are just trying to stay on top of all the changes because it’s so fluid, and we want to make sure we are staying on top of the latest information. Every decision we make is guided by what’s best for our students and staff and keeping their health and wellbeing in the forefront. That’s critical for us.”
Noblesville Schools established a COVID-19 planning team comprised of parents, business owners and teachers. The district also gave parents the choice to send their children to school for in-person classes or to continue with virtual learning.
“That (number) is also evolving as school gets closer and people get a little bit more nervous about returning to school,” Niedermeyer said.
The district’s curriculum planning is centered around the state’s academic standards, and Niedermeyer said that remains the same whether students are learning in a classroom or online.
“The core content off what we teach is the same, but how it is delivered, that’s what’s different,” Niedermeyer said.
Noblesville Schools teachers are not new to virtual learning, as all Noblesville Schools students have their own electronic devices for learning.
“Teachers have had lots of opportunity over the years to have training because we have had online learning during the inclement weather days, so our training for teachers is ongoing,” Niedermeyer said. “They have the skills they need to be successful in that online platform.”
For students who did not have internet at home, Noblesville Schools provided internet hotspots for them.
A statement on the district’s website said it’s possible students will be required to return to eLearning.
“The pandemic shifts rapidly and we don’t know what the rest of the school year may bring,” the statement read. “If cases increase, schools may be ordered to close again, requiring all students to shift to online learning. If the situation improves, we may be able to abandon some elements of this plan and return to more normal operating conditions. We will be in close communication with staff and families as future decisions are made.”
To reduce the spread of COVID-19, students and staff will wear masks at all times. Masks will be required on buses, while entering and exiting the school building, while picking up food in the cafeteria line, in restrooms, in the health clinic and in hallways. Masks also will be required for certain classrooms or classroom activities.
To view the entire Return to School plan, visit noblesvilleschools.org.
Supt. Beth Niedermeyer said being familiar with eLearning helped the district pivot quickly in the spring when students were unable to attend classes in-person. Providing each student in the district with their own electronic device for learning, helped the district transition quickly, but Niedermeyer said there was still lots to learn.
“We learned a lot from that. We had some really great parent feedback about how that worked for our successes and things that didn’t go so well, so we definitely learned from that experience,” she said. “We will put that new information into practice. We are trying to make it easier for parents to navigate using one learning platform versus a variety. We know the importance about the social/emotional well-being of our students and how personal contact is so important, so (teachers) are staying connected and engaged (with students).
“It’s amazing what you can do with the creative spirit of our teachers. They worked so hard and provided some really incredible learning opportunities last spring and will only continue to get better this year if we have to go back to that again.”