PHM schools switch to e-learning, county creates guide for schools

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT
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Thursday’s Parent’s Playbook has 16 News Now taking a closer look at the St. Joseph County Health Department’s matrix guide for re-opening schools.

Penn-Harris-Madsion Schools releasing this new information as of Thursday afternoon:

“Dear P-H-M Families,

We have been communicating regularly with medical professionals at the St. Joseph County Department of Health (SJCDH) and receiving guidance regarding the status of coronavirus activity and community transmission in making decisions regarding the safest model for curriculum delivery. The current thresholds for consideration by SJCDH strongly recommend that St. Joseph County Schools open in a virtual learning environment.

They also provided guidance on extracurricular and co-curricular activities. Those programs are being monitored and are under review.

The administration will recommend to the P-H-M Board of School Trustees at a School Board meeting on August 3, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. that all students participate in a virtual learning environment from the first day of school, August 19 through October 22. During the established virtual learning period, we will continue to collaborate with the SJCDH regarding further discussions and recommendations.”

If schools were starting this week, based on the matrix from the health department, the recommendation would be all e-learning, but that will be up to the school districts.

“It’s there for guidance, it’s there as a tool for districts to make the best decision for themselves,” Robin Vida with the St. Joseph County Health Department says.

The matrix rolled out this week. looking at total cases in St. Joseph County as well as percent of positivity for COVID-19. The county health department looking to help schools make the right choice for in-classroom learning versus online.

“To help guide schools to make the safest and best choice for the families in which they serve,” Vida says.

But it is just a guide and schools don’t have to follow it. So I reached out to New Prairie, LaVille, and John Glenn to learn how this may change reopening plans. No comment so far. South Bend Schools only responded with “Dr. Cummings would like to interview after the board meeting on Monday.”

The department of health says this new guidance comes from requests from schools in St. Joseph County.

“A month ago we would be having a very different conversation than we’re having right now, but because we got lax in our prevention strategies, we’ve seen our numbers dramatically increase,” Vida says.

School City of Mishawaka already moving to all e-learning to start the school year, whether the other school districts in St. Joseph County will follow suit remains to be seen. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the county, the health department hopes schools use their guide to keep students safe.

“We hope it’s a good way for districts to use this as a tool to make the best decision for them and their staff but most important the students and families that would becoming through their doors,” Vida says.

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