Brownstown schools continue to adapt to changes



Fresh off of fall break, hybrid schedules have been implemented at Brownstown Central middle and high schools.

Students participating in traditional in-person instruction had a regular schedule Monday before all students transitioned to the hybrid schedule Tuesday.

The change came after the Indiana State Department of Health designated Jackson County as orange due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

BCMS and BCHS students are now reporting on an alternating (every other day) schedule as follows: Red Day will be last names beginning with A through J and any other household member with a different last name, and Black Day will be last names K through Z. Tuesday was a Red Day.

During a Brownstown Central Community School Corp. board of school trustees meeting Tuesday night, BCMS Principal Doug McClure said it was helpful to have Monday to plan and communicate with students and parents.

“We don’t even look at it as challenges anymore. We just look at it as turns in the road. We’ve had so many turns in the road, we just drive on. That’s our motto: Drive on,” he said.

“They are champs, they are real professionals and the attitude is surprisingly light and optimistic,” he said of his students and staff. “I say surprisingly because it really has been just a lot of changes this year, but everybody just accepts that this is the situation that we’re in and we’re going to put our best foot forward.”

A meal distribution effort has been coordinated by BCHS Principal Joe Sheffer and Food Service Manager Sheryl Jackson. McClure and Sheffer both have had students sign up via Google Forms to receive free lunches on days they are eLearning.

Cafeteria staff members will prepare meals for those students to pick up Monday or Tuesday and take home for the rest of the week. Sheffer said the corporation’s students receiving free meals has been extended until the end of the school year.

Keeping with social distancing efforts, McClure said fall sports athletes in boys and girls cross-country, football, boys tennis, volleyball and cheerleading will be honored virtually instead of the annual powwow that’s typically conducted. Students who worked at the concession stand and operated the scoreboard during sporting events also will be recognized.

McClure also hopes to be able to have the community council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the middle school conference room. The council meets in the spring and fall to share the ongoing school improvement efforts with the community. Attendees learn about the academic efforts and can ask questions and provide input.

McClure said he expects the school’s COVID-19 response and progression to be a hot topic.

“It’s always a positive evening, and we appreciate the feedback that we receive from those individuals,” he said.

He also said registration for eighth-graders to sign up for the Washington, D.C., trip scheduled for next spring closed Oct. 15. He expects to have around 14 students and a chaperone to go on the combined trip with Seymour Middle School. In total, he said around 100 students are signed up, and the trip is still a go pending the school board’s continued approval.

Sheffer also reported a good start to the hybrid schedule.

“It was kind of like a ghost town in our school (Tuesday) with all of our virtual kids gone, so we probably had around 200 students in the building,” he said.

Superintendent Tim Taylor thanked McClure, Sheffer and their staff members for the planning and preparation that led to a smooth transition to the hybrid schedule.

“They did a lot of work last week over break, and I really appreciate all that they did and their staff did,” Taylor said.

He also thanked Transportation Director Karyn Rumph and bus driver Alan Ballard for helping get transportation lined up, especially for the high school students who go to the career center in Bedford.

The new schedule has no effect on Brownstown Elementary School students. Per state guidelines, BES continues to offer traditional in-person instruction to students as it has all year.

“We’re 25% through the school year already. We finished up the first nine weeks before fall break. We’re all still in school, so I’m pretty excited about that,” Principal Chrystal Street said.

Parent-teacher conferences recently were conducted in person, virtually or by phone, and Street said they went very well.

Since third-graders didn’t get to take IREAD-3 last school year, Street said those students, who are now in fourth grade, will take the test in November, but it won’t count for or against the school.

“We just wanted a good idea of where our kids are,” Street said. “We looked at data at the beginning of the year, and we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve looked at data again, and it’s starting to go up, so we’re feeling really good (after) the loss that occurred during COVID and the summer slide.”

Board members also offered their praise to corporation employees.

“Thanks to admin and all teachers and classified staff for everything they are going through right now with the pandemic,” Trustee Mary Lou Burcham said. “It’s a hard situation, and I just appreciate everything everybody has done.”

Board President Scott Shade thanked everyone for adapting.

“Thanks for dealing with what you’re having to deal with in the professional manner that you do,” he said. “We’ll continue to go forward. The good thing is that our schools are open and we’re doing everything we can to keep it that way, so it is a collective group effort by everybody, so thank you very much for that.”

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