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Members Of MCCSC Reentry Committee Talk Plans For School This Fall

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Welcome to Noon Edition. This is Bob Zaltsberg from WFIU WTIU news along with co-host Sarah Wittmeyer our news bureau chief. We're recording the show remotely today to avoid the risk of spreading infection. And today we're talking about the Monroe County Community School Corporation's plan for fall. We're here with members of the reentry committee. Our guests today are Paul Farmer, a teacher of Bloomington High School North and MCEA president, Crystal Bratton, who's a Bloomington High School North department chair and Judy DeMuth, the Monroe County Community School Corporation superintendent. You can follow us on Twitter at noon Edition. And you can send your questions to the show to news at Indiana Public Media dot org. Thank you all for joining us today. I know this is a very busy time for all of you. Wanted to start with Superintendent Judy DeMuth - good to talk to you again Judy. You've put together this reentry committee. How big a task is it for you to get ready to start school in the fall. 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: Yes. In my 44 years of education this is probably the most difficult challenge that we're confronted with. I think that it's going to be an interesting start to the school year. But I have to say that with a lot of great people and great minds working together, I think, we can do this. About a month and a half if you would have asked me if schools were going to begin in the state of Indiana, I probably would have said no. But then as you well know and I'm sure our listeners know there was a real push by Governor Holcomb and a lot of states quite frankly to get the economy back going. And at that point in time within a week we found that our challenge was going to be to actually begin the school year. So with that in mind we all came together. We have a broad based committee and that's the - recovering reentry committee. And some of the partners are on here today. And so they've done a lot of work. It's hard work. And we'll talk a little bit about that. And then we've been meeting with a group of teachers and then also of course our principal, so a lot of great input. And hopefully we'll have a great plan in place as students reenter the schools. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I have to always remember that the very first time I heard you speak in Bloomington when you became MCCSC superintendent, you talked about your highest priority being the safety of students. And I don't think you had a pandemic in mind at the time. 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: You know what about 20 years ago I remember the State Department of Education put something out about a pandemic. And I remember sitting in my office saying I don't even know what this is - I'll never have to worry about this. Well obviously we are worrying about it. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Right. OK. So Paul Farmer, can you talk a little bit about your work on the reentry committee? 

>>PAUL FARMER: Yeah. Thank you. First of all thank you for having us here today and giving us the opportunity to talk about what what we're doing right now. Like you mentioned earlier I'm also the association president here in Monroe County. And I also want to say thank you to Dr. DeMuth, giving us the opportunity to work together along with the whole Bloomington community and getting all the teachers together to be able to come up with a strategic plan of moving forward. As you mentioned the safety of the students are paramount. We can't argue against that. And you know as we move forward we also have a lot of other people too that we want to protect too, teachers, custodians, administrators, parents who come into our buildings and so on and so forth. So it's a monumental effort as Dr. DeMuth mentioned earlier, I mean this has been something that since March we've - it's been in the back of all of our minds. From a teacher standpoint, Crystal of course - she's on the show today - she's one of the teachers that has been on the committee. We also have as Dr. DeMuth mentioned we have a teacher committee. There's about 25 to 26 teachers that are on that as well. As an association we also have a separate committee too. We call it our summer task force committee that's working on it. And there's a little over 30 32 of those. So we've got nearly 60 teachers who are participating right now and putting efforts forward, getting teachers opinions, parents opinions and trying to bring those to the committee. So when we say it's a collaborative effort there's a lot of people involved. And so I appreciate her giving us that opportunity. So... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. I want to get Crystal Bratton to give us her original - or her her initial thoughts as well. So Crystal if you could unmute. And yeah. Thank you. 

>>CRYSTAL BRATTON: Yeah. Good afternoon. This is quite a great city to be a part of this. I've been teaching at Bloomington North for eleven and a half years. And when you go into teaching you talk about the difference that you want to make in the lives of your students and their families. And you don't really think about doing it during a pandemic. So it's been quite a change of speed but I would say that our cooperation has done an amazing job of supporting us and really working with our families and listening to our families. When I was given the opportunity to be a part of the main re entry committee I jumped at the opportunity to be the high school teacher as well as a special education teacher kind of like input about bringing our students back into the schools. And I think it was you know great. And what a you know an honor to be a part of it but also the importance of the teachers aspect. And I just - I thank Dr. DeMuth for bringing the teachers into that main committee I love seeing all of the different people in the community coming together and wanting to work together you know for our students and for MCCSC and just you know sets us apart from others I feel like. But also being a part of the all teachers reentry committee has been great too. And kind of seeing both sides of what are the concerns of all of our teachers from all different levels and classrooms and then bringing that information and those concerns to the reentry committee for the community to think about has really been a great opportunity. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Great. You've got so many minds working on this. I want to mention though and have you talk a little bit about - I guess I'll go to Dr. DeMuth first - the enormity of this task. I know the State Department of Education sent everybody basically a reentry guidelines and ideas. And it was a 30 page - thirty eight page document. So there are a lot of things to think about from being in the classroom to being in the cafeteria to whether you're going to have gym. I mean can you just talk about the enormity of putting this plan together? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: Well it is enormous. There's no doubt about it. Do you know about six - I had the pleasure of serving on a task force committee with Dr. McCormick, our state superintendent. And about six weeks ago he completed from the Department of Education a plan. At that point in time the plan was called Getting To Yes. And we had put a lot of time into that plan and really tried to approach it from the safest and best educational setting for children in the state of Indiana. It then went to the governor, the legislature, the health departments. And then it was put out a couple of weeks ago. And the new name of it is Indiana's considerations for learning and safe schools in class. So it really went from recommendations to considerations. There's a lot of flexibility in the plan. And although the plan looks like it's 30 some pages, when you really copy every appendix and every document, it comes out to about 320 pages. So we've been studying that as we've worked with our committees and as we craft our plan. And the challenge is enormous. When you're serving ten thousand six hundred students you've got in any given day two thousand staff members. And safety and security is paramount importance for our families for staff. You know we have staff members, students with health situations that we have to be aware of. We have to work with these folks. And you know one thing that's so important in education - that we want to make teachers happy. It doesn't matter - I say it doesn't matter what I do, what my assistants do. If teachers aren't happy, children feel that. And we've got to make sure that we have a safe and make sure we have safe provisions for our teachers so that our children feel safe and teachers can do what they need to do. But we're studying it from every way including parents being afraid or not wanting their children to come back to a building to children actually coming back to the building to transportation to feeding them to having social distancing the best we can. So all of this is really being taken on by all these folks. But I'm so proud to say that we are really kind of funneling in on a plan. And in fact I've reviewed a draft here early this morning. And so all these great minds are trying to put together a plan that's going to really be safe for our children and our teachers and our staff members to the best of our knowledge, recognizing that until there's a vaccine or until this thing is eradicated we're going to have to deal with it. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Sara. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Can you talk a little bit about the survey that went out to parents and maybe talk a little bit about just sort of what was included in that and the kind of feedback you got from parents. I think Crystal, could you address that? 

>>CRYSTAL BRATTON: I haven't seen a lot of the parents survey personally because I know that it went to our downtown administration. But as a parent I know that there were obviously safety concerns and what we were gonna do moving forward. But it was overwhelming that parents wanted their students to go back to school. You know they realize that like it's not going to be the way it was at the beginning of last school year. But just the social emotional aspect of like going back and seeing their teachers and seeing their peers. You know it was pretty overwhelming that you know they want to get them back into the school. You know they want their teachers to you know give them great instruction and but also for us to make sure that they're safe. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So when do you think that the plan will be put together? Dr. DeMuth do you have a roadmap going forward? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: We do. You know we've tried to take all the work from the various committees and all of the voices and really try to distill it into a plan that's easy to read and understandable. So as I said early this morning I reviewed a first draft. We hope to take a draft plan Tuesday evening to our board meeting and then at that point in time put it out there for the public, see what kind of input we get and then come back the following week on the 30th and actually have the board approve the plan recognizing that this thing's changing every day. So although we have a skeletal plan, the important piece of this is you know some things in the plan will change as the health departments work with us along this road. And I do have to say between Dr. Box at the state health department and then our own Betty Coddled here in Monroe County, those two people have been unbelievable in terms of trying to help us gear this move it forward and then recognizing that on a daily basis. And like Penny says to me, minute by minute this change. So I can't thank them enough. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So I should go back to Sara's question as well and ask you what what have you learned from parents from the surveys that you've been doing? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: So we've done a number of surveys. The first couple of surveys was really to check on - as you know the day before spring break we had to dismiss students. And they left and our teachers had to change their entire way of educating kids to an online version. And I am so proud of our teachers and our staff members. You just need to know Mr. Paul Farmer has been wonderful. Crystal has been - I'm recruiting crystal to be an administrator. I mean they have been wonderful because those folks gave their whole spring break. And I think that's something that people take for granted. But our teachers had a spring break that they never thought this year. And so they helped to put all of the information and all of the - we use canvas of the learning management system. And so they actually taught those students through canvas. So we were really trying to gauge what teachers - what parents felt about our operation recognizing that it happened within a week. You know within a week we were teaching online. So now as we go back and we know we're going to have to close down whether it be a building parcel to the corporation, you know we're gonna have to go back to online learning. In addition we're going to have an online program. So what is it that our parents felt or how did they feel about that experience and how could we improve? So we did a lot of work in that area. Then we did some temperature checking if you would to see how many parents were going to actually send their children back to our schools and try to gauge how many of our parents would then you know choose an online version. And as you can well imagine the virtual schools have bombarded the market right now. So we really want to keep our MCSC students. And the bottom line is we are going to offer that online. So we did a temperature check to get - to gauge that. And really statewide as we looked at different communities, we recognized that about 30 percent of our families at that point in time were saying they may take advantage of an online opportunity rather than sending their children back. So now we're to the point where once we put this draft plan out in public we'll come back with another survey because now it's getting real. We have to know how many of our families are going to come back to us with their children so that we can properly staff. And so right after that draft plan goes out within that week we hope to get another survey out and then also to determine how many of our families are still going to use our transportation services as we head back to school. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. We're talking with Dr. Judy DeMuth from the mineral kind of community school corporation today along with teachers Paul Farmer and Crystal Bratton. If you have questions about the restart of MCSC or any comments about it, you can participate in our live chat by tweeting at noon edition. And you can also send this questions to news at Indiana Public Media dot org. Paul Farmer what have you heard from teachers about this you know this quick turnaround? And what did you learn in those first couple of months of online teaching that are going to help you this fall with either a hybrid system or if you have to go to totally online again? 

>>PAUL FARMER: Well I think one of the things no matter what any educator - when they start even if it's not even during a pandemic they know they start with Plan A and they end up with plan CBD and E. That's Just part of teaching. What they realized was it's accelerated. And so they they have to plan different things. And definitely when they went to online they - the realization was right in front of our face it really made a difference with the students. It became blatantly clear a separation. In other words, you really had to treat almost each student as their own individual. Call it an IEP, Individualized lesson plan, for our students with difficulties. So it's as we move forward into the school year as Dr. DeMuth said we'll have an online option. And those will be working with those students from the beginning of the year online. So that'll be a little separate. And then we'll have classrooms. There may be intermittent times. There may be an outbreak in a building. And so we have to close the classroom or close the building or in some cases maybe if it's the worst case scenario we'd close the corporation as a whole for a time period. Well once again the flexibility - being able to change on a dime. That is very stressful for - whether it's the students or the teachers it's very stressful. You like to have consistency. And the kids thrive on that when they know they can come to school and they have the consistency of the teachers each day when they're not there. That's more difficult for them. So you know those are the things that the teachers had to learn - is to be even more flexible when what they were in the past. And knowing that, for many of them, I know our high schools in particular have done canvas for many of them several years. Our elementary teachers and middle school teachers hadn't used canvas in some cases none at all. And like Dr. DeMuth said they had to learn how to do that in a week and present that. So that in itself has been an issue as well. So... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So just a little clarification of detail. So you expect to have some students that will have some online and some in-person instruction? Or will it be a situation where either kids will be online or in person unless you have to shut down? 

>>PAUL FARMER: Well there could be a variety of situations for some students. Like say for example there's going to be a group of students with their parents. They make a decision. They want to do it online. So from day one they've identified it. They'll have some options. I don't know all the details of it yet. But probably a semester or a year. They say I want to do this for the first semester. I want to see how things are going. And then maybe they plan on coming back second semester. Then there'll be another group of students who are face to face. So they're going to buildings. There may be situations. Say for example, there may be some medical situations with some of our high risk students where maybe they have a bit of a hybrid possibility. I mean there - may be their doctor says they need to have that to be safe. Or there's a shutdown maybe. I mean as Dr. Drew mentioned. We've got over 14000 employees. And people involved in our school corporation. It's not if we're going to have COVID. It's when. And so it's going to show up. And so what does - does Monroe County Health Department - how do we do that? Do we shut down a single class? Do we shut down a building? Do we shut down the whole corporation? So I think there's going to have to be a blend of things that happened throughout the school year. I don't think there's any intent of having students say, just for the fun of it, they show up. Well, I want to go on line. Then I want to show up. And I'm not going to be going back and forth. So I don't think that kind of a hybrid is what's going to be planned. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: A follow up to the online learning. And you know at the end of the last semester, like you said, teachers had a week to put something together. And it really didn't mean that what was going on in the classroom. So I'm curious how much the online program will mimic the actual classroom this time around. 

>>PAUL FARMER: Well I think there's going to be definitely changes from the spring to the fall. We weren't able to prepare for the spring. That was something that happened at the instant. And so that was much more difficult. So there are teachers working over the summer, are ready when - actually when they're not even being paid to do that. They're doing that or on their own time, getting classes ready to go. And there will be some mimicking, yes. We do have from a school corporation standpoint - we do have a curriculum guide. So if you're a third grade student, well, you're supposed to as an educator during the third grade year - you would be covering these kind of a pacing guide. And they go through. So the - if you're like - I'm biology physics and chemistry. So if I'm a chemistry teacher I would be following along with what the other chemistry teachers are doing together. So I mean there's going to be some mimicking. But obviously there has to be some differences. You know if you're in a family consumer science class, a foods class, well what you do at school may be very different than what you're able to do at home. So there's going to be some differences. But there also has to be some consistencies and accountabilities. I'll put it that way too - curriculum and things. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Crystal Bratton I want to ask you about special education. I know that that's an area that you teach in. And Paul mentioned IEPs and you're familiar with IEPs for a lot of your students, I'm sure. So how does this idea of trying to deal with covid in the population of students that you work with, how does that make things more complicated? 

>>CRYSTAL BRATTON: Well you are correct that the majority of the students that I worked with - work with have IEPs. And I also have like a caseload that I am in charge. So I'm making sure that they're receiving their accommodations. And we're working on goals you know and we're still moving forward. And so I would I would say kind of commenting on the last question to that Paul was answering was you know when we when we left in March it was we didn't really know that we weren't coming back and we wouldn't be able to come back for a very long time. So we took stuff with us. But we didn't take a lot. And so it was kind of one of those things where you know we weren't necessarily as prepared as we needed to be. And we couldn't get things to our students. You know we have a lot of students who weren't able to get access to technology. And so we were putting together paper packets. And you know the schools were doing an amazing job of letting us email them the material. And they were printing it for students and letting students come and pick it up you know? Different - you know accommodations that we could make in those regards. And then you know the mailing - you weren't supposed to mail things and you were supposed to let it sit for 72 hours. And there were just so many steps that were you know kind of like in our way to get the things to our students that we needed - that we needed to get to them. And so we had to be really flexible and creative. And I personally think you know our special education teachers did an amazing job. But a lot of us were you know learning you know different strategies. So you know calling our parents and setting up Google or Google meets to meet with our students periodically. We have some of our students who have deficits in just like organization. So you know putting together a schedule for them and sending it to their parents and sending it to them. I had many times where I would call a parent and ask to speak to the student and ask them hey I see that you haven't turned your work in for today. Let's get going. So we had to still be there for our families and our students. But we just had to figure out new ways to do that. Our canvas you know learning management system is great in that regard. You can chat through that feature. You know we're able to get access to see kind of like where kids are in classes that they're in. And so a lot of it was not only supporting like classes that we teach or co teach in but also our individual students and really connecting with them. They really were the lucky ones in it I would say. And I know that sounds crazy. But they had someone specifically checking on them as an individual as a student and then as a family. And so we'll continue to do that. In high school we're lucky enough to build relationships and do our annual meetings with them at the beginning of a school year. So we already had that rapport built with them and can continue that through second semester. But you know I think that is a difficult aspect of virtual learning - is the special education piece. And we're continuing to learn and grow. And our corporation has done a really great job of putting together professional development for us in technology and through special education and creating digital courses. And they're putting it together for the entire month of July that we can see as well. And so you know we're going to continue to grow. And we're going to learn. And you know you never really stop learning. And so we'll just keep working for those students and for our families. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Crystal, if I'm correct - I just wanna make sure I'm correct. An IEP is an individualized education plan. 

>>CRYSTAL BRATTON: Yes. That's correct. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Just so everybody realizes that. So - go ahead. 

>>CRYSTAL BRATTON: No I was going to say I mentioned like the annual conference. So anyone who has an IEP also receives an ACR which is an annual case review. So that's where we sit down at the table and we kind of just go through the entire plan. And we make plans for the next year. And we decide on the goals and the accommodations and services that they're going to receive. So that's what I meant when I said the annual meeting. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Sure. So Dr. DeMuth and Paul Farmer what's what's a classroom going to look like? How's it going to be different with the need for social distancing, wearing masks those kind of thing? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: Well we're going to do the very best we can. What we've done is we've gone around the district to our twenty three buildings. And we've measured all of our spaces divided by six and trying to figure out how many students could fit in each of those spaces. Now the principals are going through their buildings and trying to make determinations on how they can split children up so we can get the best social distancing possible. So we will again do as much social distancing as we can possibly do. Where that comes to question is on the buses. And we did get some forgiveness on the bus situation because as you probably know baba. Our transportation costs in terms of our budgets are slim. And that budget is really to take children from their homes to school and school home. And we typically have a full bus load as we're going through a route. So we're going to try to divide those routes up as best we can. But again we have to be fiscally sound in that. So we are encouraging parents to bring their children to school, walk their children to school, carpool their children to school. But the bottom line is we're gonna do the very best we can. And hopefully it works extremely well. It's been interesting to listen to our medical professionals because as Mr. Farmer pointed out, it's not if we're going to have a covid situation. It's when because as they've told us you know you're not going to prevent it but you're going to try to slow it down and make sure it - hopefully it doesn't take place in your buildings. But we're to do the very best we can. You're going to see some different situations in terms of academics how a teacher may teach the core instruction then they rotate to different groups for more instruction. You may see some things outside happening because as we know as we have good weather it's good to get the children outside. So you're going to see differences. But I think that we're going to work our very best to make a safe and secure environment for all. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Paul may have - he may have a thought on this. I just wanted to follow up and just say you know Indiana University - most of the things that I've heard from them involve 33 percent capacity in classrooms. So are you gonna be able to do something like that? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: We're going to do our best. I'm not sure we're gonna give a 33 percent percentage. You know we have Anne Letwich from Indiana University an arts committee. And he pointed out although Indiana University says they're bringing students back, she's going to be teaching one of the very few in-person courses at the school of education. So most of their courses, many of their courses will be online. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK, Paul. 

>>PAUL FARMER: Yeah I think you know Dr. DeMuth mentioned that there's not going to be a cookie cutter - sorry about that - a cookie cutter way to solve this problem. No way is our all of our buildings going to be doing the exact same thing because you can't run them that way. There are some core things that yes that needs to happen. But each building is going to have conversations like what we're having at the corporate level with all the people around putting information and putting ideas in. So we call that discussion at each building level. So what Bachelor does may be slightly different than what Jackson Creek does or what try North does, same thing with Templeton and University and Binford and Lakeview, North South, so on - that they will have teams of people that get together. And you know what is the best way to social distance within these classrooms. How are we going to do that with numbers? Because social distancing is a number thing as Dr. DeMuth mentioned earlier on in the show was that we we don't know how many are going to be doing online yet. We hope to have more of that here coming. Maybe the first second week of July we'll be able to have those numbers have a little more stronger sense. So therefore you know if students have to move around a little bit to help balance things out, maybe that is a possible option. You know there's just - I think there's just not a single way to do it. And lots of minds have to come together at each one of the buildings to be able to make make the best safe solution for everybody. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: You're listening to noon edition on WFIU. And we're talking with representatives from the Monroe County Community School Corporation on putting together a plan to start the school year in the fall. When's the first day of classes? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: So our students will actually begin on Wednesday August 5th. So that will be their first day of classes. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So you don't have a whole lot of time to get all this together? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: We do not. We do not. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So if you have questions or comments, you're out there listening to us, news at Indiana Public Media org. You can send in your questions and you can also follow us on Twitter at noon edition. So you know being in the classroom is one thing. There are a lot of other aspects. Dr. DeMuth, you and I have talked about this before. It's kind of like running a city. You've got all the extracurricular activities. What's the outlook for those? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: That's for sure. The Indiana High School Athletic Association has been at the table as the plan for in class was put together. They've also put a lot of guidance documents out and actually staged when various practices could begin, when contact would begin. So we are following that closely with all of our extracurriculars. And it's going to be very helpful. But the one thing I have to say is that the plan is to have extracurricular athletics. And so I think a lot of people previously felt like that wouldn't happen. The plans that I saw from the (unintelligible) really start on July 6. And that's something that I think a lot of people were kind of surprised about. But July 6 will start conditioning a lot of our coaches. And you know they work - have been working with the kids and the athletes and the extracurricular kids online. You've seen lots of concerts online and all that. That's our extracurricular coaches actually working with kids when we - they probably aren't being paid at that point in time. They've been working with them online. And it's really been kind of exciting to see the kinds of things that they've been able to do with the children. But extracurriculars are going to move forward. And then you know we have an early learning centre. We - that center takes care of children six weeks old through preschool. And we will be opening that center on July 6th. When the governor and the state superintendent closed our buildings and grounds down we did close that center and as you know this summer has been difficult really through March for child care. Thankfully most people were working from home. But now what's happening is people are starting to go back into the workplace and they're really looking for childcare. So we're very excited that we'll be able to open that July 6. But you can just well imagine the precautions and the stress of opening that up to these little ones because you know the - by their very nature, babies slobber. And you know we've got feedings to do and change things to do. And so we're all really putting a full court press on right now making sure that we have our strategies and our protocols in place and we're very tight on our cleaning and prevention. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: We got a question from Rachel, Dr. DeMuth. And she says I'm wondering if private schools in the MCCSC system are following the same plans. For instance what is harmony doing? Will they be following MCCSC's plans? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: Do you know what? I don't know. I know that Kathy Jurstein from the project school is actually listening to our large committee work. And so I think she hopes to be in sync with us. I can't really speak for the others in terms of what they're doing. However if they do take public dollars they are going to be following the in class guidance from the Department of Education. So that's the best I could give you on that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: How about - what about the academy? Do you have special plans for the academy? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: Our academy as one of our high schools will be following the same kinds of protocols and steps that are both north and south will be following along with the graduation school. And the really nice thing about that is we just got a large grant from regional opportunities initiative. And so we're doing some really nice things to create spaces for small groups. So we're very excited about having the ROI opportunity at the same time we're socials distancing has become so important. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So we were talking about a lot of things that you have to deal with with the school corporation. Another thing is feeding students. So you know having a big cafeteria open I would think would not be an option when you get back in August? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: That is so true. You know that's going to be one of those spaces where we're going to have to distance children. So we're going to be using those spaces to put various classes in. And so right now the best I can think of in terms of what their recommendations will be a grab and go for both breakfast and lunch. And as you know we've done that all summer. We have places in the community where we've been serving since all of this started. And so we've gotten pretty sophisticated with that. And I believe we'll be doing the same kind of thing for a while at least where our students will have their lunches and breakfast brought to them because we're gonna be using those large spaces for classrooms. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: We know this week the governor announced that he wasn't going to cut schools budgets which is certainly I'm sure you were breathing a sigh of relief and a lot of teachers as well. But can you talk a little bit about just the cost of some of the modifications you're going to have to make and safety measures? 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: Yeah I think - I don't think people realize that the costs involved. When this all began obviously there are a lot of cleaning costs. Although we've done a really great job with cleaning. But we've we've had to go out and get things like foggers because when you're dealing with buses it's very difficult to get every nook and cranny. So we've gotten foggers. We've actually provided to the community a lot of PPE, a lot of gloves goggles was a big one for us. You know people called us right away so we donated gloves goggles anything you can think of to various community members as we started this in March and April. But now as we come back both cleaning supplies - I mentioned a couple of things for the deep cleaning and then processes and protocols. You know we're constantly relooking at things. Do we need to put this a wall here? Do we need to put desks over here? How will we look at this? Do we need portable classrooms? Do we need tents? So everything's on the table in terms of how we can best socially distance. We've taken part in the FEMA grant opportunity. And so we have filed a first wave if you will on FEMA. So we'll see what kinds of things that we'll be reimbursed for. And then we are also have taken part in the Kerrys Grant. And one really important component to all of this is. Number one the social, emotional, well-being of our children and staff and number two, when our kids come back, a really good way for that last year's teacher is to hand off the children. I've been very insistent upon that because the way we closed for many of our children was really mentally draining for them. So we got to have some closure from last year's teacher and the handoff to the next year's teacher. So that will work well for our children and our families. And we've got to make sure that as we've talked about the safety and sense of security for our kids but then also the learning, the gaps. You know we know our kids have gaps. So we've got to hit those gaps hard as we started our learning. But the first couple weeks it's going to be more social emotional pieces so that we can get our kids back. We've got to hit our gaps. And then we know we had about three hundred sixty families that had a hard time connecting. So we are using our chairs grant to do a couple of things. First of all, to put passports on our buses so that we can actually put our buses in neighborhoods where they have no connectivity. Number two, we've put hotspots on side outside the buildings during this time. And families have been able to drive up. And we're going to increase the number and availability of those. We've purchased hotspots because some individual families will need to just have a hotspot. We've purchased more devices through the CARES grant because we recognize that we need those for those kids and those outliers. But then quite frankly and if Mr. Pritchett, our IT person is listening, I'm a believer now. We have kids on the line whether that be Nashville or more toward Heltonville where there are no towers. And those kids will not be connected. No matter what type of hotspot I give them, they're not going to be connected. So we need to figure out how we're going to deliver instruction to those very few families. So, again, as you can imagine, there's a lot of dollars that are going there but it's - it's well worth it. We need it. And that's how we'll be using those grants. And hopefully we'll get fully funded on most of those things. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Farmer, I'd like to hear your comments on this, too, and the idea that the - or the points that Governor Holcomb made about not cutting K-12 funding. I know, you know, we've been in a situation where teachers have been fighting hard to be recognized by state government and to get more money for salaries. So what's this - where's this put like the MCEA and teachers in terms of, you know, your advancement and trying to move forward? 

>>PAUL FARMER: It's a great question. I'm also - in our local Monroe County Education Association, we're an affiliate of Indiana State Teachers Association and NEA. I'm also on the ISTA board of directors with the State Education Association. And we've had those conversations because we've been - as you mentioned, we've been pushing for several years about the advancement and support and funding for public education. Obviously, what's happened right now has really made us rethink how are we going to - because we still believe. There's no doubt about that support of public education, financial support and so on is - it hasn't gone away. It's very important. So how do we approach it differently? We are very, very fortunate that the governor has said no, we are not going to cut. Not only are we not going to cut but we're going to continue unfunded at the way that they had originally planned on funding. So that was incredibly fortunate that they're going to do that. However, we also know after the election, starting next spring in actually next winter in January, February, March and so on, that's another budgetary season. It's another biennium. And that's going to be very difficult because obviously our public schools were funded by sales tax dollars and the economy is down. Spending is less. There's going to be some very, very difficult decisions and conversations that are going to be occurring during that session. I think part of it is as we go through - and our community has been incredibly, incredibly supportive of our teachers and our public schools. We've passed two referendums. This one will be up again in two more years. So we've been incredibly blessed by having that support. And I think locally that support obviously still exists. The question becomes, how is that going to be impacted because of the financial constraints with our markets as they are? It's a good question. We're working on it right now. I know our local - one of our goals is to continuing to get out into the public so that they know who we are that, yes, we are teachers but we also are part of the community. We want to be part of our LGBTQ plus, our Black Lives Matter community. All of the different organizations that support our children, we want to be part of that as well. So any specific things, no. We have an election this fall. One of the things that ISTA is focused on is we don't care if you're Democrat, Republican, Independent. it's irrelevant. We want people in those seats who are public education friendly. And you know, it doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat or Independent. We want those in there who are going to support public education. And that's a big drive here this fall between now and then. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Sara. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: We got a question from Vanessa, just wondering if any information or decisions that were made on before and after school care for MCCSC elementary schools. 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: Yes. Thank you for that question. Yes, when we begin school, we will have our before and after school care programs. And obviously, that's another piece to the puzzle in terms of how do we run those programs in a safe environment. You know, we get those kids early 6:30 a.m. To put them in a sterile environment where they're six feet apart is very difficult because a lot of them just want to be cuddled quite frankly. I mean, these are children we're dealing with. And so our child care people are really great and they are very concerned about that, and they're working on a plan. But yes, we will have child care before and after just as I said, you know, open up the ELC, the Early Learning Center on July 7 and then moving forward as the school year begins with our before and after care programs. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Got two questions I want to use to close the show. The second one, the last one is going to be to you Dr. DeMuth about diversity. Paul mentioned the Black Lives Matter issue. You put out a memo recently about the MCCSC. So I'm going to give you a chance to talk about that. First, I want to ask Crystal and Paul about just the atmosphere and the energy in school buildings, you know, with COVID. What are you expecting? I mean, times between classes and students being able to just, you know, communicate with one another. What are you expecting that to be like? Paul. 

>>PAUL FARMER: Yeah, sure. I know one of the things, and that's with all of our teachers and I have - I'm going to say hundreds of hours that we've spent in Zoom meetings with each other. The teachers really do worry about the social emotional learning and the emotional impact that all of this has had on our students. A lot of our students have had family members who have been impacted by it or even maybe themselves. And so I think as Dr. DeMuth mentioned when we first, when we start the year out the large focus has to be on how are you doing, how's it going, what can we do to help. That social emotional part and support that they need it's not going to be a free for all that anybody can do whatever they want. But it's got to be a way that how do we support them, how do - and how do we support each other. You know, because there's a lot of worry. There's no doubt. I've got lots and lots of teachers who are immunocompromised, who are very high risk. And so lots of questions about how could we keep ourselves safe and our students safe at the same time. Crystal, I'll let you (laughter)... 

>>CRYSTAL BRATTON: Yeah. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Crystal, short answer. And then I'll give Judy the last minute and a half or so. 

>>CRYSTAL BRATTON: Of course. No, I was just going to say, you know, from a teacher's standpoint, you know, and a parent, you know, we're nervous. You know, we don't know what the future's going to hold, but what we can do is we can put in a plan in place, communicate what that plan is going to be, hold each other accountable to it and then, you know, work through whatever comes our way together as a corporation, as a group of teachers, as a class and whatever, you know, whatever happens. But I will say that as teachers we're excited to see our kids again. And even though we are nervous about what could happen, you know, we don't know what the virus is going to do. But, like, we're excited to see our kids again. We want to see them in person. You know, we want to teach them. We want to do some social emotional work with them because we need that as well. And so, you know, our reentry committee and Dr. DeMuth and everyone, when we work together and we communicate our plan and we stick to that plan, good things will happen. And so I am nervous about the next year but I'm also excited. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK, Dr. DeMuth, I didn't give you much time but if you could just give me, like, 30 seconds on trying to deal with the Black Lives Matter and the social justice issues that we're facing now, too, as you restart school. 

>>JUDY DEMUTH: Yes. Thank you. As you know, we've had a long-standing effort in terms of equity. And recently with the things that have happened in our nation, we realize how important it is to talk about race, racism, diversity. And the bottom line is this year we started with our students a series called Real Talk. And that's when we bring children or students together to have very good conversations about the concerns they have about that environment. We - after this happened with George Floyd, we decided we would pull together and offer a summer series. The other day we offered a time when parents could listen to some of the dialogue. But the series we're putting together is really focused for students because a lot of our students, you know, are seeing, everything they've seen on TV. And they're saying, where do I fit in? How do I fit into this world? And so right now we'll be starting with our students. We'll be talking about black lives, they do really matter and the importance of all of our diversity and how we want to honor that and move that forward because here's the thing; in working with these kids, they are leaders and we don't have to have these meetings anymore, they're going to lead us forward. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Thank you very much. I'm sorry I didn't give you more time for that. So thank you to Dr. Judy DeMuth, Crystal Bratton and Paul Farmer our guests today and John Bailey, for Matt Stonecipher and Michael Paskash our engineers. I'm Bob Zaltsberg. Thanks for listening. 

>>: (MUSIC PLAYING) 

>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Noon Edition is a production of WFIU public radio. A podcast of this program is available at wfiu.org. Production Support for Noon Edition comes from Smithville - fiber internet, streaming TV, home security and automation in southern Indiana. More information at smithville.com. And from the Bloomington Health Foundation partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our community's health needs. Bloomington Health Foundation, improving health and well-being takes a community. More at bloomhf.org.

school hallway

(WFIU/WTIU News)

Earlier this month, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the state planned to reopen schools July 5, along with guidance for reopening. 

For Monroe County Community Schools,  fall courses will begin with a mix of in-person and virtual instruction August 5.

A reentry committee made up of teachers, principals, and other school faculty is working to finalize plans for the beginning of the academic year.  

MCCSC schools have been closed since March 13, after receiving information that families in the district had been exposed to others who displayed COVID-19 symptoms.

Then, on March 19, state officials announced all schools should move to online instruction until May 1. 

In April, state officials extended the date, instructing schools to finish all coursework for the year online.  

The last day of school for students in MCCSC district was May 7.

Guidance from the state released earlier this month contained recommendations on social distancing and protocols for students who test positive for COVID-19.

This week on Noon Edition, we’re talking about plans for the 2020 academic year for MCCSC and what’s being taken into consideration for the fall. 

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at news@indianapublicmedia.org.

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. Because of this we will not be able to take callers live on-air. 

Guests

Paul Farmer, teacher Bloomington High School North, MCEA President 

Crystal Bratton, Bloomington High School North special education department chair 

Judy DeMuth, MCCSC superintendent 

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