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Parent’s Playbook: Knox Community Schools Superintendent discusses getting back to school

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 5:26 PM EDT
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KNOX, Ind. (WNDU) - Knox Community Schools' first day back is next week.

Tricia Sloma spoke with its superintendent about the learning options available, plus coronavirus numbers in Starke County.

Tricia Sloma: Knox Community Schools will get started back to school next week. Joining me now superintendent, Dr. William Reichhart. Good to see you, sir.

Dr. Reichhart: Hey good morning Tricia, thanks for having me on this morning.

Oh, this is a tough time for parents and school administrators alike. Starke County though... you have some of the lowest numbers of COVID in the state. How does that good news factor into your decisions.

Well, Tricia, It was good, up until the month of July and then we've had several outbreaks here in Starke County so our number so seeing a little bit of an increase and we've been working with our local county board of health here to try and stay on top of the recent outbreak. Currently we have an on-site testing clinic going on here at the high school. In Knox and so people are getting tested on a daily basis but it really hasn't affected our plans. One of the things the key word in all of this is to be flexible. And that's what we're trying to do. So, when the Board of Health changes some things like we just had the recent mask mandate, we hopefully have a plan in place to handle those type of things.

What learning options are available for families at Knox?

Just like in most school districts we are adjusting and we have, in person learning. We're excited. We start school next Wednesday, Aug. 5 and we can't wait to get started. We have teachers in our buildings right now getting their rooms ready and it's been a long time since we've saw any children in our buildings when you go back to March we're going on, almost four and a half months since we've seen any kids in our building or riding any of our buses so I know in this time it's hard to be excited I really feel like there's an energy that we've been missing and that is the kids. And for those parents who want, and they have tough decisions to make, if they want to do online learning with us, they certainly can. We will have that option available and it will look a little bit different than the eLearning that we did from March until May. The Knox online learning will be more rigorous. It's going to have some live components to it. So students sitting at home can tie into their class, and hopefully it'll be much more meaningful than what we did back from March to May.

Well there is a mask mandate for Indiana students. What will you require inside your school buildings?

Well, we, we will go by the governor's order. He has exempted grades K to two -it was strongly recommended and we will follow those guidelines. We've worked with our local board of health here and they are on board with that. And so when kids are in passing areas where they're with other children, they will be wearing masks, and then hopefully when they get back into their classrooms, we will be able to socially distance them far enough apart that we're going to be able to remove those masks for some breaks because it's very difficult for both staff, teachers as well as students to wear those masks 24/7 so we're hoping to keep our kids safe while they're here at school and we'll do everything we can to ensure that that happens here at Knox.

Dr. Reichhart, When I talk to teachers that in any district throughout the area, their biggest concern is their safety How is your staff and how will you ensure the safety of your employees there?

There will be hand sanitizers available for staff. We have what I call a fogging machine that will disinfect all the areas of their classroom, the buildings, the school buses. We'll be doing that once to twice or three times daily, depending on the situation. We will keep our staff, obviously they can wear masks. We are trying to socially distance, we will have some classrooms because of online learning component we have about 300 out of our 1800 students right now, that have signed up. That's about 16% of our total population. And that will help us socially distance our kids who do show up in person. So, it is every, it's always a challenge, and none of us went to school to learn how to react anything like this. But I always feel like my career has been marked by challenges and we've always been able to meet those challenges and, and I am empathetic towards our parents. They have a very tough decision. Our grandparents in our community about whether to send their children to school or whether to keep them at home and we want to support them either way they choose.

Families can learn more at back to school night that I understand you’re doing virtually. Tell people where they can tune in and how?

Yes, the building principals in each one of our buildings will be doing virtual learning the teachers will have videos that we will post on the YouTube channel. There will be a link from our website so parents can go on there and see so just like if they were coming into school that night, they'll be able to go online and be able to see that video for their children, whether they're here on campus or off campus.

That back to school night is when?

That is going to be Aug. 3, so Monday night but they can really do it anytime once those videos are posted.

Dr. Reichhart, we wish you the best in this school year and thanks for joining us.

Thank you very much.

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