Seymour Community School Corp. has not decided to cancel school in response to growing concerns of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, at least not yet.
But the situation continues to change by the hour, and administrators are monitoring the situation closely.
“It’s very fluid,” said Talmadge Reasoner, assistant principal at Seymour High School and school safety specialist for the corporation. “It depends on where your locale is. What is the conditions in your county? What is your local health department saying?”
Today, school officials said Friday would be the last day school is in session before spring break and classes will resume as scheduled March 23.
“I know there are rumors out there that we have already made a decision, and that’s not true,” Superintendent Brandon Harpe said. “We met for over three hours yesterday discussing different scenarios and how we are going to handle it.”
Should the virus be identified locally and officials deem it necessary to close schools in the future to prevent it from spreading, SCSC plans to utilize eLearning days. If school is closed, all athletic practices, games and club meetings will be canceled, too.
“We have to be responsive if and when someone or something dictates that it’s necessary we close for the safety of students,” Reasoner said.
Students will be required to complete schoolwork at home on their Chromebooks or other computers. Teachers are advising students to take their devices and other study materials home today as a precaution.
“If we have to close, we have a plan in place,” Harpe said.
But it won’t be perfect.
SCSC has not officially implemented eLearning yet. The corporation was scheduled to have a trial eLearning day next month.
“We were intending to go to full eLearning anyway next school year,” Reasoner said.
This situation has just ramped up that schedule, he added.
The district is following guidelines from the federal department of education on how to use remote school or eLearning.
“Nearly every school is accelerating their eLearning programs because this could be an extended absence,” Harpe said.
By using eLearning, the schools are attempting to keep children stimulated and involved and keep the learning process going during a closure.
The safety of students and staff is the main priority followed by education and learning, Reasoner said.
“Those are both going to be challenges with this,” he said.
But he believes the innovation of teachers, staff and administrators will prevail.
“I promise you they will do a good job at it because they care,” he said. “They’re going to figure out a way to make this method as productive as it can be.”
The corporation is working closely with local health officials and other area school systems in the county to share information and plans.
It’s important for parents and families to have accurate and the most up-to-date information about those plans, Harpe said.
Information is available on the school’s website, scsc.k12.in.us, and its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Families also can sign up to receive alerts from the school by text or email. School closings will be announced by The Tribune and local television and radio stations.
Families need to check those sources instead of calling the schools, Harpe said.
“Any announcement could come quickly, so we want people to check regularly,” he said.
The corporation also is taking increased measures to keep school facilities clean and sanitized in an effort to prevent the transmission of germs and viruses and illness.
“Our custodial staff diligently cleans and disinfects surfaces throughout each school building on a daily basis,” Harpe said.
Now, they will be working to sanitize those surfaces throughout the day instead of just in the evenings, he added.
“We are also increasing the frequency of cleaning in our classrooms, lunchrooms and school buses,” he said.
The best advice for families is to keep kids home if they are sick and to communicate with the school’s central office about the child’s symptoms. The same goes for teachers and staff.
“We are not going to penalize children for being sick,” Harpe said. “They don’t need to come to school to receive perfect attendance awards and things like that. The most pressing issue is to be healthy.”