Carmel Clay Schools adds more virtual teachers as cost of pandemic tops $2M so far 

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The COVID-19 pandemic has cost Carmel Clay Schools $2.2 million since March, with approximately half of that cost to fund new teaching positions to handle virtual classes, primarily at the elementary school level.

Nearly a quarter of elementary students signed up for virtual learning to begin the school year, compared with 21 percent of middle school students and 12 percent of high school students.

Amy Dudley, CCS assistant supt. of curriculum, instruction and assessment, told the school board Aug. 24 that some of the virtual elementary school classes began the year too large to be manageable, with some nearing 40 students, even with the addition of five new teaching positions.

So administrators began looking for ways to form additional virtual classrooms. They transitioned seven instructional assistants to teaching positions and reassigned five reading specialists and instructional coaches to become virtual teachers, as well, bringing the total of new homerooms for the school year to 17.

Twelve of the new classrooms launched Aug. 26, less than two weeks after the start of the school year. Approximately 17 percent or 313 students were moved into new virtual classrooms, which contain students who attend various CCS schools under normal circumstances.

Dudley said rearranging homerooms after the start of the school year isn’t ideal, but it’s not unprecedented, either. Principals aimed to keep students from the same school together in the reshuffling.

“We tried not to just move one student from a school, but we looked at how we could move a clump of students from (the same elementary school) to this section so they also will have some peers when the next year they’re back at their home school and will see some familiar faces,” Dudley said.

After the reorganization, elementary in-person classes average 21 students, while virtual classes average 28 students. The middle schools are averaging 23 students in its hybrid program, with 25 students per virtual class. At the high school, hybrid class sizes average 15 students, with virtual classes averaging 17 students.

Students at all grade levels had the option to choose all virtual classes, with elementary students having an in-person option and middle and high school students having a hybrid option of in-person and virtual classes. Initially CCS planned to allow students to choose a different option after nine weeks of school, but administrators are questioning whether that’s feasible, considering the complications of staffing levels and social distancing requirements.

“It’s a little contradictory to go nine weeks and then change to a different (teacher) and a different location,” CCS Supt. Michael Beresford said. “It’s really been a struggle. We haven’t come to a consensus on our team what’s the best approach to that.”

CCS Associate Supt. for Business Affairs Roger McMichael said the district is able to fund the COVID-19-related expenses out of its reserve funds and that he doesn’t expect the district to take a major financial hit — as long as the pandemic doesn’t last beyond this school year.

“Our hope is we’ll be past this by this time next year and that this will be a one-time expense, significant nevertheless,” he said.

Carmel High School

88 percent hybrid

12 percent virtual

Carmel Middle School

79 percent hybrid

21 percent virtual

Clay Middle School

83 percent hybrid

17 percent virtual

Creekside Middle School

75 percent hybrid

25 percent virtual

Carmel Elementary School

83 percent in-person

17 percent virtual

Cherry Tree Elementary

85 percent in-person

15 percent virtual

College Wood Elementary

61 percent in-person

39 percent virtual

Forest Dale Elementary

80 percent in-person

20 percent virtual

Mohawk Trails Elementary

85 percent in-person

15 percent virtual

Orchard Park Elementary

65 percent in-person

35 percent virtual

Prairie Trace Elementary

75 percent in-person

25 percent virtual

Smoky Row Elementary

77 percent in-person

23 percent virtual

Towne Meadow Elementary

72 percent in-person

28 percent virtual

West Clay Elementary

67 percent in-person

33 percent virtual

Woodbrook Elementary

83 percent in-person

17 percent virtual


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