By Tim Ashley
SYRACUSE — Although it will never replace in-person learning, virtual learning has proven to be much more effective than eLearning. During the regular monthly meeting of the Wawasee School Board Tuesday evening, Jan. 12, in Syracuse, the board was given a virtual learning presentation by Cameron Troyer, Milford Middle School math teacher, from his classroom.
Troyer noted virtual learning is “much more engaging” for students and is more personalized when compared to eLearning. He said eLearning does have a time and place and teachers prepare assignments ahead of time for students, but virtual learning is live and students can see the teacher moving around and writing.
To access virtual learning from home, students use their Chromebook devices to log into Google Classroom and from there go to Google Meet. Students can actually raise their hands virtually and there is also a closed captioning option available for those students who can’t hear well.
Troyer also noted Google has incorporated “breakout rooms” into virtual learning where teachers can meet with each student individually.
Teaching has been considerably more stressful and difficult during the pandemic because some teachers are teaching in person and virtually at the same time, but Troyer said many teachers have been creative and have found new ways to adapt.
In other business, Dr. Steve Troyer, the new superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation and in his first board meeting in that role, said the months of January and February is the listening and learning phase for him. He has scheduled several meetings with staff members, parents and also community meetings. During March and April it will be the reporting phase where key findings will be summarized.
“It will help us to inform a new five-year strategic plan and vision,” he said.
Also in his report to the board, Dr. Troyer noted during the month of December the in-person attendance rate in buildings was about 84 percent. He said a decision was made to not necessarily shift to all virtual learning even if the county goes to a red status for COVID-19.
“We will look at the numbers and make a determination at that time,” he said, adding the school corporation will continue to work with the county health department.
Troyer said school bus drivers are desperately needed now. He said COVID-19 has for sure been a factor because many drivers are in the higher risk age groups. He noted it could get to the point where if even one bus driver is sick, some students would be dropped off from a route and another bus would have to be brought back to pick them up.
And he noted he has received several calls from parents who are concerned their kids would have to miss events they have worked months to prepare for, such as state athletic tournaments, because they might be in close contact quarantine for COVID-19. “I have asked Mr. Walmer (high school principal) to investigate and see if we can come up with creative solutions,” he said.
January is school board reorganization month and the board voted to name Don Bokhart as president, Mike Wilson as vice president and Rebecca Linnemeier as secretary. Bokhart replaces Linnemeier who had served the last seven years as board president.
Tammy Hutchinson remains as the recording secretary and James Flecker remains as board attorney. Board meetings will be held at 5:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month except for the third Tuesday in April and will typically be held in the Warrior Room of Wawasee High School.
The board stipend or salary will be $2,000 plus $110 per regular meeting and $60 per special meeting paid quarterly and capped at a $6,000 total. Board of finances officers will be Mary Lou Dixon, president, and Rob Fisher, secretary. Steve Troyer, James Flecker, Dave Van Lue and Phil Huffman are authorized to open sealed bids and receive quotes for school business.
James Flecker is treasurer and Rachel Moore deputy treasurer.
Other agenda items included:
• Autumn Griepentrog of Milford School received a $1,000 Kosciusko Endowment Youth Services grant to be used for virtual learning and the school library.
• More than $2,000 was raised during No Shave November by school corporation employees and was donated to the Andy Kryder Memorial Scholarship.
• Wawasee’s school board was recognized by the Indiana School Boards Association as an Exemplary Governance Awards recipient and received a plaque and pin.
• Radio Shack and the Van Lue family donated materials and supplies to the Power Up! electronics class at the high school valued at $1,712.33. The items were left from the closing of their store in Syracuse.
• High school students Samantha Kolberg and Nyla White were recognized for being named Lilly Foundation Scholarship winners through the Kosciusko County Community Foundation.
• Discount Warehouse donated three semi trailers filled with hats, gloves, clothing and more to Kosciusko County school corporations that will be used to serve families and students in need. The estimated retail value of the items is $150,000.
• Reelected board members Bokhart and Wilson were sworn in by school corporation attorney Flecker.