Parent’s Playbook: A conversation with Superintendent Jana Vance of Rochester Community Schools

Published: Jul. 27, 2020 at 5:31 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Continuing our Parent's Playbook: Rochester Community Schools are back in session Aug. 4.

Our Tricia Sloma talked to Superintendent Dr. Jana Vance to learn more about their plans to do so safely.

Tricia Sloma: Rochester Community Schools, one of the earliest districts in the state to return to school, and joining me now the superintendent, Jana Vance. Good to see you, Jana.

Dr. Jana Vance: How are you?

I’m doing well! My first question is, are you ready?

Vance: As well as we can be. There's still a lot going on here, a lot that we need to do to prepare for the safety and the reentry of school, but we are absolutely thrilled are excited to be able to have the students back in my district.

August 4 will be here soon, so what learning options are available to families?

Vance: Sure. So we have an in learning in person option students are welcome in our district. We want to do all that we can to safeguard them while they’re here. So we have our classrooms set with what was recommended; desks facing forward. we’ve been able to social distancing seats within the classroom. We’re also offering the opportunity to do virtual Learning on our e-learning platform, as we did all through the pandemic when schools were closed in the spring.

Let’s talk a little bit more about in person learning. Masks and sanitizing stations are going to be important features inside. What other changes can students and teachers expect?

Vance: So they can expect staggered arrival and departure times we've done a really nice job of advertising. We have three different arrival times, for students who may walk to school. Our transportation, what time our buses will arrive and then a parent drop off time. So, try to stagger that. They're going to see differences with the playground, students will be contained within your classroom pods as you've heard the governor talk about, we'll try to do some organized activities with them so that they're engaged and able to burn off some of that energy and interact with others but of course maintaining those pods, so that we know for contact tracing and that becomes a concern within our district. Our lunches, assign lunch tables. I know a lot of students, especially my high school son at home was going to be 17, is not too excited about seating charts in the cafeteria but, very much understands the need to do that. Some of our younger students will be eating in their classrooms, just to give them lunches and breakfasts will be brought to them so that they have an opportunity to enjoy their meal, while at the same time not having to worry about or finding their seat in the cafeteria, those types of things. So we're trying to do all that we can to be as normal as we can, especially for our youngest population, but also taking all those safety precautions that are necessary.

So, your district has a large rural population and as we know, sometimes it can be tough to get internet outside of town. How are you helping those families?

Vance: I can't say enough for Rochester Telephone Company under the leadership of Joe McCarter, they have worked hand in hand with us to make sure we have provided every opportunity that we can for those students in the most rural areas. When this happened in the spring, there were some families that we weren't able to get to. So, at that time, to provide people packets and books and types of things but with the help Joe McCarter and his crew. I believe that we're everywhere that we need to be online or in the case that we are shut down and we met serving the needs of educational deployment.

You touched on transportation, and I have to just say Jana, you have been a leader in school bus safety I’ve worked closely with you on that. What is your reminder to drivers in your community as more buses hit the road for a new school year?

Vance: So, obviously, it takes everybody paying attention watching the road. My concern this year is that we’re going to have so many more families bringing their students to school. So, we’re going to have a lot more family vehicles on the road, and we just encourage them not to be distracted by their kids. Don’t worry if you’re a couple of minutes late dropping students off, we will rather everybody be safe and have our students arrive safely rather than worrying about being on time and getting into that rush, please obviously know our drivers. They carry our most precious cargo at all, and I work with our drivers very, very closely I share with them, they are the first person those still see the represent Rochester schools in the morning and they are the very last person to see those students so relationships are very, very important to me and to those drivers, so what we’re trying to do for our students. So please pay close attention.

We wish you a happy, healthy and safe school year. Jana Vance, Superintendent of Rochester schools. Thank you.

Vance: Thank you Tricia.

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