By David Denson
Gary Community School’s Emergency Manager Dr. Page McNulty during a press conference held Wednesday, July 22 at Gary City Hall stated the district would begin its school year on an e-learning platform.
McNulty was joined at the press conference by Gary Health Commissioner Roland Walker and Gary Teachers Union and State AFT Union President GlenEva Dunham.
“After reflecting on our original plan of giving parents the choice between e-learning and in-classroom instruction, we soon learned that public opinion had drastically changed,” said McNulty.
“The spike in Coronavirus cases within our school district and across the country along with medical guidance from our local health official caused us to reevaluate our plan and implement e-teaching for the time being. We will work with our partners and continue to assess the situation to make necessary adjustments as needed.”
According to COVID-19 data broken down by zip code, Gary has recorded 927 infections or about 15 percent of the total cases in Lake County.
Surveys of parents, teachers and community members indicate that more than 80 percent are in favor of maintaining an online platform for now, officials said. Last week, all of Lake County’s superintendents signed a letter committing to school in mid-August.
With the e-learning platform students K-12 will receive a Chromebook with internet access. The Chromebooks are to be distributed to students prior to the start of school August 12.
Teachers and administrators are being trained to use Google Classroom. Virtual open houses are being scheduled for parents prior to school opening.
The plan is to open schools August 12 and school officials also offered a backup plan in the event they are not able to open as planned.
Due to safety concerns parents were given the option of their child attending classes in person or on-line during regular school hours.
Arrangements were made to address social distancing in the classroom, and students choosing to attend in person would be served pre-packaged lunches during lunch hour.
On-line students were expected to log in and complete their work during regular school hours at the time the instruction is offered to the class.
Parents of students attending in-person classes were required to have their child checked for symptoms of COVID-19 before being allowed to attend class. Parents were also advised to contact the school nurse to report possible exposure in their child if someone in the household was experiencing symptoms.
If the Gary Health Department determines that a school needs to be closed due to exposure concerns, e-learning will be used for all students attending that school.
In that scenario, students would receive instructions from their teacher. They would be expected to attend all e-learning class sessions and complete all their work.
Had in person classroom instruction prevailed an isolation area was to be used to separate anyone exhibiting COVID-19-like symptoms and the school nurses and healthcare providers would provide care.
For in person instruction students and staff were also encouraged to bring water bottles from home. Water bottle filling stations would be used with appropriate posted rules followed.