By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — Topics at the Warsaw Community Schools Board of School Trustees meeting revolved around the COVID-19 pandemic with topics ranging from cleaning buildings, keeping students safe and rewarding employees who have put themselves on the front lines.
The school board met through both in-person and virtual means on Thursday, June 11.
An updated 2020-21 school calendar draft was presented to the board for approval. The school’s start date is still set to take place in-person on Tuesday, Aug. 18. However, Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert introduced the idea of switching WCS’ late start PLC days from Thursdays to Mondays to allow for more frequent deep-cleaning of the school’s buildings. The schools’ PLC days allow teachers to utilize time to analyze student data to identify and respond to each student’s needs. On average, these cleanings will happen monthly.
“To be able to do that, we felt like we needed a three-day period for that,” said Hoffert about cleanings happening on Mondays or during scheduled breaks. “When we couple that with our breaks that were already planned in the traditional calendar, that gives us every other week an opportunity to go in and do a deep clean inside of our schools. That’s going through our classrooms and doing things that we’ll be doing on a daily basis, but doing that just to an extra extent.”
On Mondays when deep-cleaning occurs, students and teachers will be in session via remote learning.
“We do not plan to go every other day or every other week or implementing a modified schedule,” said Hoffert on the school corporation’s teaching format for the 2020-21 school year. “Those are not things we have planned here as a school system.”
The board approved the proposed calendar.
In his report to the board, Hoffert noted that re-opening the school corporation to students is a three-way process. The first in-person phase starts on July 6 with a second summer school session for secondary students. The second phase is a summer school session for elementary students starting July 20.
“Some national research has come out about learning gaps and that research reaffirmed what we already knew,” said Hoffert. “The sooner we can get students back to physical learning, the lesser those achievement gaps are going to be inside of our schools.”
The final phase is the start of school on Aug. 18. Hoffert also encouraged students and parents to register for the 2020-21 school year to help give the school corporation insight on how many students will be attending.
“There are going to be some other options (for learning) as we go forward,” said Hoffert. “We realize there are students who have health conditions and we realize there are other things that could keep students from coming back physically due to COVID-19. We will be creating secondary options for those unique circumstances. There will be more information coming on that. But we believe that is going to be a small minority of our students. The majority of our students we see back in our traditional setting.”
The school board also approved a $300 pandemic pay stipend for each WCS staff member who worked on the frontlines during the past three months. This includes those in the transportation, food service and maintenance departments. The stipends come out of the school corporation’s federal CARES Act funds.
“We know that’s not life-changing, but we wanted to recognize how important their work was to make sure our kids were fed, that Wi-Fi was provided to our students and the incredible sacrifice they made in unsure times,” said Hoffert.
An emergency retirement incentive in the amount of $15,000 was also approved by the board. Hoffert said guidelines and requirements will be established along with the incentive.
“If a group of our teachers that would meet that criteria did not feel comfortable coming back to work, there will be that retirement incentive,” said Hoffert. “While statistics show that our students are not an at-risk population, a number of employees are in the at-risk population. These are retirements that would be out of the normal realm. These are teachers that were planning to come back for the 2021 school year and because of COVID-19, could potentially have to change their plans. We do have a cap on the number of teachers and will be putting that information out to certified staff in the next day.”
Dani Barkey, assistant superintendent for secondary schools, also made an announcement regarding prom for students. The Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Club will host “Prom Dreams 2020” from 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday, July 12, at Eastlake Skating Center in Warsaw. All 2020 Kosciusko County juniors and seniors can attend. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at Male Fashions, Glam or warsawoptimist.org.
“They’re offering dinner and formal pictures with that, so it’s wonderful,” said Barkey.
Warsaw Community Schools also recognized 11 Class of 2020 seniors for earning Certificates of Multilingual Proficiency. The Certification of Multilingual Proficiency is part of a larger focus that includes the Dual Language Immersion program. This is the first year students took the Standards-Based Measurement of Proficiency (STAMP) assessment that aligns to global language standards. The assessment is divided into four parts: speaking, listening, writing and reading.
Students who achieved this certification are Adriana Rivera Orellana, Belen Alvarado, Benjamin Beyer, Britney Gonzalez, Charlotte Grandon, Eduardo Hernandez-Guttierez, Fernando Niebbia, Giselle Ramos, Ivette Malagon, Nayeli Quintero, and Yesenia Ponce.
Serving on the Multilingual Proficiency Certification team are Noemi Ponce, Spanish and heritage language teacher; Chantel Sorensen, world language teacher and department leader; Kaylynn Lampen, English language teacher and department leader; Luisa Davis, co-director of Warsaw Community High School’s counseling department; Kelly Meeks, instructional coach; Krista Polston, grants and special events coordinator; Amanda Nine, assistant principal; Matt Barrett, assistant principal; and Dani Barkey, assistant superintendent for secondary schools.
The school board’s next meeting is at 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 15.