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South Bend high schools, middle schools to go virtual

South Bend Community School Corporation
South Bend Community School Corporation(Carly Miller)
Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 1:02 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - South Bend Community Schools has released a plan Friday that will pause in-person learning at its middle and high schools.

16 News Now spoke with the superintendent to learn more about what this plan entails.

As many schools in Michiana are transitioning back into virtual learning, South Bend middle and high schools will be doing the same beginning November 30.

However, CTE students who need hands-on experience for their certification and students who are at risk of not graduating because of grades will continue in-person.

Staff will still be reporting to their buildings for eLearning.

“Conversations that I’ve had with students today, while they love being in school and we love having them there, they do understand how to do eLearning. They’ve done it before. They didn’t seem excited about it, but they did seem ambivalent about moving back to eLearning,” SBCSC Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings said.

Elementary school students will continue with their current hybrid model of both in-person and eLearning.

“We don’t see elementary students spreading COVID-19. So at this moment, with all of the medical and scientific knowledge, elementary students are safe. They are on hybrid,” Cummings said.

School Board members, principals and the corporation’s COVID-19 Task Force all weighed in on this decision, and as of now, there is not a set date for when in-person learning will resume.

“It took an enormous team and a great deal of effort to put out the release today. While we’re not happy about it, we are going to follow the department of health’s guidelines,” Cummings said.

Note: An initial release from the South Bend Community School Corporation stated that the pivot to all-virtual instruction would happen on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. They now say schools will be open that day.

From the South Bend Community School Corporation:

Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings announced this morning that South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) high schools and middle schools will pivot to all-virtual instruction starting Monday, November 30. Cummings did not indicate when in-person learning would resume, stating that data will be the determining factor.

Consistent with health guidelines, South Bend’s elementary schools will continue with the current hybrid model of both in-person and eLearning. All middle and high school staff are also expected to report to their respective buildings for eLearning, just as the Mishawaka and Penn Harris Madison district staff are.

The decision came following discussions with South Bend Community School Board members, principals at middle and high schools, and members of the corporation’s COVID-19 Task Force, which includes Dr. Mark Fox of the St. Joseph County Health Department.

“Obviously, this is a complex decision, but based on the information from area health experts, including Dr. Fox, there is strong evidence that elementary school students are not ‘efficient transmitters,’ meaning the risk of spread is low in elementary classrooms,” Cummings said.

“The biggest piece of community transmission is happening at small to medium social gatherings like birthday celebrations and dinner parties, not at our schools,” Cummings said.

“For the community, we encourage mask wearing, hand washing, staying home if ill, and maintaining social distancing to contain the spread of the virus.”

Two groups of students will return to in-person learning: high school students who are part of the Career Technical Education programs and whose certification is dependent upon hands-on, in-person training; and any high school students whose grades put them at risk of not graduating.

According to the new recommendations set forth by the St. Joseph County Health Department, all extracurricular activities should continue virtually and athletic events should limit spectators to only parents or siblings of participants. SBCSC is following these guidelines, though the Indiana High School Athletic Association is not calling for a pause in athletic competitions.

“As we have for the past several months, we will continue to monitor the health data, decide on closures on a school-by-school basis, and base our decisions on that data, doing what we believe is best for our students and staff,” Cummings said.

Empowerment Zone school families should refer to communications from the Empowerment Zone concerning Navarre Middle School.

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