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Shelby Eastern to offer virtual learning option

Shelby Eastern Schools will be offering a virtual learning option for its students in the upcoming 2020-21 school year.

But Superintendent Todd Hitchcock does not anticipate large numbers of students staying at home at the start.

Hitchcock revealed the district’s five-part plan, which he said was fluid, to the school board during a special meeting on Wednesday.

The plan begins with what Hitchcock described as the “foundation” – a daily at-home screening of each student.

Every morning, students will be asked to answer four questions provided by the district, such as if they have a fever that morning or had been around anybody who tested positive for COVID-19. If a student answers yes to any of the four questions, they will be expected to inform SES using an online tool. The school nurse will then call the family once the online form is submitted.

The district will help families that do not have internet access, Hitchcock said.

“These questions are going to be essential to helping us mitigate people bringing what could potentially be the virus into the schools,” he told the board.

Families will be receiving reminder cards and magnets that are intended to remind them to answer the questions each morning before leaving for school.

The second step in the plan will be increasing cleaning efforts. Commonly shared spaces such as desks and cafeteria tables will be wiped down more frequently, and water fountains will not be accessible.

The district will provide bottled water.

School buses will also be sanitized in between each trip.

The third step will be educating students and staff members on how to prevent the spread of the virus, Hitchcock told the board.

Students will be taught proper handwashing and how to cover their mouths with their arm. And the district is looking at modifying its dismissal times to reduce the mass rush of students at one time.

Students will also be quarantined if they test positive for the virus or come into contact with someone who has, per the fourth step. If a student does contract the virus, he or she will be expected to miss school for up to 14 days.

And there will be a stronger virtual learning presence in the upcoming school year.

Hitchcock said it will be important for staff to be ready to switch to virtual learning “at a moment’s notice.”

After a lengthy discussion, the board decided to not allow students who choose the online option to participate in extracurricular activities such as band performances, FFA and the robotics club. The Morristown Boys and Girls Club is not affected by that policy because it is a separate entity that uses Morristown Elementary School as its base.

Students who continue their education online will experience more rigorous expectations the second time around, Hitchcock said.

High school students will be expected to take a minimum of five classes in the first semester and will be allowed to take an additional course or two if the district deems that they can handle additional workload. And if they want to participate in a sport in the spring after returning to the classroom, they will be expected to have passing grades during first semester.

Those students will be taught by a licensed educator from the Indiana Virtual Academy.

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade will be taught by teachers from Shelby Eastern, who will be compensated accordingly.

Those students will likely be taught by the teacher they would have had if they returned to the classroom, Hitchcock said after the meeting, in an effort to ease the transition if that student returns the following semester.

He said he did not anticipate a large number of students choosing the online option, particularly at the secondary level.

A survey sent out to parents found that an overwhelming majority wanted their child to return to the classroom.

Masks will not be a requirement but students and staff will be given one and encouraged to wear them in situations where social distancing is not possible.

“What we didn’t want to do right off the bat is require students to wear masks all the time, because in some ways, that may be challenging for some kids and staff to do that,” Hitchcock said. “Nobody likes to wear masks all the time, or this would have been happening before COVID. It would have been the fashion thing to do.”

Afterward, he said he felt that the district had built a framework to move forward.

“We want to keep people safe but we don’t want to create an environment that people don’t want to come to,” he said. “We’re not going to be willing to stay open in a traditional sense if nobody wants to come to school because of all the procedures we have in place. I think we’ve achieved that fine balance. It could be one step forward and three steps back if the situation changes in our state. I think it’s good we’ve been able to move forward in this manner but at the same time, we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Governor announces slow down in Back on Track plan

The Back on Track Indiana process will slow down to a certain extent following Gov. Eric Holcomb’s announcement on Thursday.

All counties in Indiana including Shelby, with the exception of Elkhart, will transition to Stage 4.5 starting at 11:59 p.m. today. That additional stage will continue through July 17, unless the governor announces an extension.

Increasing capacity at restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, that had previously been planned for Saturday, has been put on hold. Those will remain at 50 percent capacity while continuing to practice social distancing.

There is no state mandate for the use of masks in public. However, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced on Thursday morning that masks will be required in Marion County starting on July 9.

Under Stage 4.5, fairs, festivals, parades, youth overnight camps, conventions and horse racing are among the events specifically affected. Those may continue with 50 percent capacity, also with social distancing being practiced.

Locally, the Morristown Boys and Girls Club carnival, which had originally been rescheduled for July 10-12, was rescheduled again for Sept. 25-27 prior to the governor’s announcement. That carnival is not affected under the latest update.

Likewise, the Shelbyville Parks and Recreation summer camp, previously scheduled to start on Saturday, was canceled prior to the announcement.

However, the Splash Pad at Blue River Memorial Park, which was also planning on opening on Saturday, will be pushed back to July 17 when Stage 4.5 is scheduled to end.

The 50 percent capacity that was previously in place for fairs, festivals and parades will remain through Stage 4.5. Social distancing must be practiced and face coverings, regardless of if the event is indoors or outdoors, is strongly recommended.

Conventions will be allowed to continue but must be limited to no more than 250 people, and the plan encourages for a health screening process to be incorporated.

Horse racing will also be allowed to continued with 50 percent capacity.

Splash Pad to open July 17

Splash Pad to open July 17

The Splash Pad will not open on Saturday as a result of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s announcement on Thursday of version 4.5 of the Back on Track Indiana plan.

The Shelbyville Parks Department made its announcement Thursday morning in response to the governor’s decision to press pause on advancing to Stage 5 of the plan.

The Splash Pad will now open on July 17.

Independence Day

Dear Readers,

On behalf of myself and the entire Schwinn Team, I wish all of you a happy Fourth of July. The celebration won’t seem the same without the traditional Waldron Parade.

This year we had planned on having Waldron’s favorite son and royal coxswain, Jack Yeend, along with special guest Jeff Linder, lead our parade unit. They were going to be riding a vintage Schwinn two-seater decorated in red, white, and blue streamers.

Jack and Jeff had already put in hours of practice balancing on the tandem before the virus put the kibosh on the festivities. Hopefully, they will get the chance to demonstrate their skills to the public at a later date.

The celebration in Waldron is a tradition that goes back a great number of years. Rumor has it that Benjamin Franklin was in the first Waldron Fourth of July parade. Of course, it wasn’t the famous Benjamin Franklin who, along with John Adams, proofread the Declaration of Independence. It was the Benjamin Franklin who used to live near Milroy.

The annual Fourth of July parade began in 1951. The entertainment committee that first year was Paul and Mary Stafford along with Mark and Katherine Rick. It was such a big hit that the parade and festivities grew bigger and better every year.

The Meltzer family is from the Waldron area and I have been attending since the 1960s. Being in the parade was always an important part of the celebration. In those days, all of the children in the parade received little tickets that could be exchanged for popcorn, a Coke, and a chance at the fishpond.

With no parade today, I thought I would share some of my fondest memories from celebrations of past years.

One year sometime in the 1990s, Cathy Laird, our county clerk at the time, was scheduled to lead Team Schwinn. Cathy arrived riding the best looking Schwinn in the parade. It appeared to be a Black Phantom similar to the one made famous by TV personality, Pee Wee Herman. It looked new because it was. Cathy said it was an official Schwinn reproduction, complete with a spring on the front fork and a tank. Cathy’s daughter, Mary, joined the team that year. Unlike some elected officials, Cathy always rode in the parade even in non-election years.

One year Charlie and Suzanne Noble won the award for traveling the furthest to ride in the parade. They along with their children, Christa and Caitlin traveled from their home in Georgia. Charlie’s mother Mildred was from Waldron. Charlie wanted to pay me $20.00 for his Team Schwinn souvenir t-shirt. I explained to Charlie that his offer was very generous. Most of my friends at the time, including Jeff Linder, thought that I should pay them to wear one of my t-shirts.

From all of us here at Team Schwinn we hope that all of you have a safe Fourth of July holiday. We will see you at the Waldron Fireworks on July 18th. Hopefully this virus will be over and Waldron will once again have a parade next year. I would hate for all of Jack and Jeff’s practice riding the tandem to go for naught.

Mosquitos pose risk to the community

The Shelby County Health Department has received 14 complaints about mosquitos gathering in open containers of water.

Throughout the community, specifically in alley ways, people have been leaving objects that are transforming into mosquito hot spots.

Many mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. They can lay eggs in something as small as a bottle cap, but the larger the container the larger the risk.

Areas of standing water, such as a trash can filled with rain water, or even a tire, can host a dangerous amount of mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes carry many diseases and viruses. They also are an overall nuisance to the community.

Robert Lewis, director of the Shelby County Health Department, asks residents to pay attention to what they are leaving out to collect rain water. The more rain the community gets, the more mosquitoes will breed.

“Mosquitoes carry several types of diseases, the more water you have the more mosquitoes breed,” he said.

EAP Cares Act offers support for households affected by COVID

The Energy Assistance Program EAP Cares Act Funding is giving people who were financially affected by COVID additional support for their electric and heat bills.

Those who have a member of their household who has experienced a job loss or a reduction of hours between March 6th and July 3rd qualify for a one-time benefit of $350.

The sum of money can be split up between electric and gas bills. Electric bills typically rise during the summer, according to energy assistance coordinator of Human Services Inc. Justa Corark.

New households must apply for the energy assistance program. They also must also provide proof from employer verifying the loss they have experienced during COVID.

Returning households should contact their local office. Shelby County’s office number is: 317-398-3153.

July 31st is the last day to apply for the benefit.

“Some are still waiting for unemployment, so this is helping them so they do not get too far behind,” Corark said.