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Parent’s Playbook: Baugo Community Schools

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 6:29 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Some Elkhart County schools pushed back their start dates, but the Jimtown Jimmies did not.

They went back today, online and in-person.

Our own Tricia Sloma asked the school superintendent if he’s nervous about in-person instruction. Here’s what he had to say.

Tricia: The Jimtown Jimmies didn’t have to change much on their schedule or their plans in fact hardly anything at all Superintendent Byron Sanders joins me now for this Parents Playbook Good to see you, Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Sanders: Well, thanks for having me Tricia appreciate that.

Tricia: Boy, there’s been a mixed message, to say the least, coming from Elkhart County health officials and other officials, and yet, Jimtown Jimmies will start on the day planned, with all your plans in place, is that right?

Mr. Sanders: That's right, we're ready to go. We're ready for in person instruction and we have a virtual learning platform that provides services for just about 20% of our student body.

Tricia: Wow, and tell me about that virtual option. In the spring, when you had to go to something different, immediately, was that a struggle for you? And then how have things improved?

Mr. Sanders: Well I think fortunately we had an E learning protocol already in place that we was designed to react to snow days. And so we exercise that tool. We got better at it over the spring and teachers became comfortable and flexible and you saw a lot of creativity to come out of that elearning platform. We knew we needed more, especially if we were coming back to school this fall, in a virtual setting. And so we purchased some document cameras that work collectively with our Google platform and provide us a much more flexible virtual learning experience. I think it's gonna be great for kids. It gives them nearly a virtual seat in the regular classroom and keeps kids very closely connected to their teachers which we think is critical.

Tricia: And yet most of your student body is going to be going to school in person. Does that make you nervous? And how are you going to manage the protocols?

Mr. Sanders: Well, certainly, I mean we're in the middle of a pandemic. And so we are aware and concerned about a pandemic. We surveyed our families. Of those surveys we had a very significant portion of our community that responded to it and of the responses, 90-94% of our families said they plan to come in person. In reality, we're a little bit less than that. We are hovering really around 14%, we do anticipate some shift here at the beginning of the school year, once all the dust settles, and everybody chooses their seat in the classroom or at home. And so I would estimate we're sitting closer to 20%. But our protocols, our mitigation strategies are all in place. We have shields on desks. We have disinfectant protocols for classrooms and playgrounds and hallways. We've trained the trainer, if you will. Our teachers are ready to re-teach students how we're going to behave differently in school. How we're going to walk in the halls. How we're going to keep our hands clean. How we're going to wear our masks, whenever we're not in our seat and facing forward. We're going to do all those strategies that are in our reentry plan, and we're going to focus on keeping kids in school in-person for as long as possible, hopefully for the school year,

Tricia: And you can shift on a moment’s notice, right?

Mr. Sanders: We're fluid. Fortunately, we're small. Baugo has the blessing of being a smaller district with about 1950 kids, and with a population that size with all of our schools on one campus, we have some flexibility to be fluid and so we're ready to do that. We're going to keep our kids safe. Our priority, always is teaching and learning but our first priority is safety in school. And so if we find that our plan isn't meeting our goals, I know our board has empowered me to make all the right decisions to keep our community safe we'll do that.

Tricia: Well, we wish you the best as you get started on this new school year. Good luck. Thank you for joining us, Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Sanders: Thank you. Tricia. I appreciate it so much. Have a great day.

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