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Indiana Schools Plan for Reopening with Virtual Options

In its first official meeting, Indiana’s Silver Creek school board approved a series of district policies for the health and safety of students and staff, including virtual options and face-covering protocols.

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(TNS) — In its first official meeting, Indiana's Silver Creek school board approved a series of district policies for the health and safety of students and staff, including instructional options and face-covering protocols.

The Silver Creek Community School Corp. interim board unanimously passed its reopening plan for the school year ahead during its Monday meeting. The separation of West Clark Community Schools into the Silver Creek and Borden/Henryville school corporations went into effect last week after voters approved the district’s divorce in the June election.

The board appointed Clemen Perez-Lloyd, who previously served as West Clark’s superintendent, as the new district’s interim superintendent. Doug Coffman, who previously served on the West Clark board, was elected as the board’s president, Rachel Overberg was elected as the board’s vice president and Scott Groan was elected secretary.

There have been no changes to Silver Creek’s calendar, and students will return to school July 29 as originally scheduled. According to the district’s reopening plan, Silver Creek will offer two options for instruction, including traditional learning and virtual learning.

Face coverings will be required for all teachers when social distancing cannot be properly maintained, and face coverings will be highly recommended for all students when social distancing isn’t possible. Students will be required to wear face masks and stay in assigned seats on the bus.

“I want to reach out to parents to make sure that they help us with this hard habit, because who really likes to wear a mask?” Perez-Lloyd said. “I don’t think anyone enjoys it. [For] our small kids, we’re actually ordering face shields for K-1 kids because we know it’s going to be complicated for them to wear a mask all day.”

According to Perez-Lloyd, the administration consulted with the Clark County Health Department, and Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel did not object to any of the recommendations in the reopening plan.

Students participating in virtual learning can participate in non-athletic regular activities, and for athletics, Silver Creek School corporation will follow the Indiana High School Athletic Association athletic requirements, according to the plan. Home internet is required for online instruction, and students must commit to a whole semester of virtual learning.

The plan also sets forth policies regarding illnesses. Parents are urged to self-screen their children, and students should stay at home if they are sick.

If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, they must quarantine for up to 14 days before returning to school, and the Clark County Health Department will conduct contact tracing. For other illnesses, students must see a health provider and be fever-free for 72 hours and symptom-free for 10 days before returning to school.

The reopening plan describes policies for sanitation — frequent hand washing will be required throughout the school day, and there will be additional hand sanitizer stations available in each classroom and throughout the school buildings. High-touch areas will be cleaned frequently.

The classroom setup will look different when students return to allow for social distancing. Students will have assigned seats, and desks will be spread apart when possible. The cafeterias will also operate at limited capacity to allow for social distancing. Food service employees must wear gloves and masks, and food sharing is prohibited.

Certain guidelines will vary depending on the school building, including traffic patterns for students and lunch plans, Perez-Lloyd said.

“While we have a district expectation, we also have specific building protocols that have been put in place to ensure that kids are safe,” she said.

The board also discussed graduation ceremony plans during the meeting. Silver Creek High School’s in-person graduation is scheduled to take place July 18 with social distancing guidelines and a limit of four guests.

Perez-Lloyd said it has been a challenge transitioning to a new school district, “but at the same time, challenges bring big opportunities.”

“This is our opportunity to build from the ground up [and] to hear our community,” she said. “This new board is very energetic, and they are very willing to go the extra mile. We can say that all we expect is the best for Silver Creek School Corporation. It is very exciting, and yes, it’s a lot of work, but nothing that’s worthwhile comes easy.”

Coffman said the community has been waiting for a long time to reach the separation of West Clark, and he is excited for the opportunities ahead.

“I’m most excited about what the future holds in terms of facilities, curriculum and all those things where we don’t have to be concerned what other neighboring schools are thinking or doing or whatever — the focus is going to be on Silver Creek,” he said.

He said although it’s “disheartening” that the district has to place so many restrictions on students and staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he feels Silver Creek is doing what’s best for kids in the community.

“It’s kind of like going to the doctor — sometimes you don’t like the steps you have to go through to get better, but these are steps we have to take,” Coffman said.

©2020 The Evening News and The Tribune (Jeffersonville, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.