August 21, 2020
Dear BCSC Families,
In late July the vast majority of our families made the decision to return to school. The reasons to return were wide ranging, just as were the reasons many families opted for the at home learning experience. Each family considered a number of factors, some had lengthy conversations about the next steps, while others quickly decided their course of action. The families electing to attend school in person and those opting for the online approach joined BCSC educators with one unifying understanding—no one knew exactly what to expect when school started under the cloud of COVID.
This is what we have learned in 17 school days. Please note this is not a political statement, nor is it a medical opinion, just observations at this point in the school year.
- On day one of school, 8,238 (88%) of students returned in person while 1,143 (12%) of students started school online. The current online numbers are 1,257 (13.4%). In looking at other school corporations around the state, the percentages at BCSC are similar to other school corporations using this dual educational platform.
- As we held to our start date of July 30, some other school corporations delayed the start of school or started school online for all students. We worked all summer in preparation for the start of school and were pleased to offer our families two viable educational options. Our successful preparation is a testimony to our positive relationship with our classroom teachers who provided keen insights to reopening our schools. In consulting with local health officials, there was no improved safety rationale for delaying school, so we started on time.
- Currently we have 9,447 students in Preschool through 12th grade, with 584 teachers who are part of an overall staff of 1,137. Brownsburg High School is the 13th largest high school in Indiana with an enrollment of 2,743. Understanding these numbers puts the impact of COVID in a proper perspective.
Positive Cases and Quarantining:
- BCSC was notified its first positive student on Tuesday, August 4. Since that time, we’ve had 10 additional students who have tested positive for COVID or been clinically diagnosed with COVID by a doctor.
- Those cases occurred at Brownsburg High School.
- On Friday, August 14, we had our first staff case that impacted students. At ALPHA, a small program for students with special needs, five BCSC students had to be quarantined after contact with two ALPHA staff members who were COVID positive. As of today, 7 staff members have tested positive for COVID, but due to social distancing, absence from work or yet reporting to work only the five students at ALPHA were required by the Hendricks County Health Department to be quarantined.
- At this time, 174 of students have been or are currently quarantined since they were within 6 feet of someone who was COVID positive. The number of students quarantined in each case ranged from a high of 31 students quarantined to a low of 5. COVID positive students who ride the bus, sit with larger groups at lunch and have at least some classes where space is at a premium typically cause more students to be quarantined.
- All of the quarantined students who were eligible to return to school have returned to school on time. None of the quarantined students (67 students) who have already returned to school have displayed or reported developing any symptoms of COVID. The number of students required to be quarantined by the Hendricks County Health Department is a significant concern since they are removed from the classroom for a two-week period.
- The COVID positive students have returned to school on schedule, with none being hospitalized. The seriousness of the symptoms while the students were absent from school varied from student to student.
- Through our contact tracing, there is no evidence to indicate that any of these students caught COVID through contact at school.
Communication and Next Steps:
- There have been some questions regarding communication—that the number of messages to parents does not equal the number of cases. On Sunday, August 9, we had three reported cases, two coming within minutes of each other. The result would have been three messages in one day, with two messages coming within minutes of each other. When we have a positive case, we will communicate with the families at the school with the reported case. If there are other cases reported at that same school on the same day, it will be shared through regular communication with parents. Please know that due to privacy laws, we are limited in what information we can share with families.
- We have been asked about the number at which the schools would close or move to a hybrid instructional model. At this time only a decision by the Governor, the Hendricks County Health Department or the BCSC Board of School Trustees would close our schools. The major concern with a hybrid model is the number of days of online learning compared to being in school. Even with the possibility of being quarantined, a student is going to be in school 170 out of 180 school days compared to a hybrid model of in person school for 90 days or less. We are committed to an in-person model as we believe it is the most effective approach to teaching and learning.
- Since none of the quarantined students to date have reported any symptoms, we are re-examining our classroom layouts to create more social distance, which should dramatically reduce the number of students quarantined when there is another positive COVID case.
- Should the schools physically close, our plan is to shut down for two days before moving to a full online teaching model. The School Board has deemed day care at our schools as an essential function, and if allowed by the Governor and/or local health department, we will provide day care option for families needing it through the Brownsburg Parks and Recreation Department.
Our hope is that we have no additional cases of COVID, but realistically, based on what we have seen the first 17 days of school, we can expect more cases. Keeping COVID in mind, there are other significant concerns that need to be considered. The mental health of our students is a priority for us. Trained mental health professionals and educators interact with students each day and are best equipped to provide support, when needed, to those students on a daily basis. Twenty-five percent of our students depend on our schools for free/reduced breakfast and lunch, a key part of a successful day of learning. And while not often talked about, schools are safe zones for children. Educators also have the important responsibility to ensure students are safe at school and at home. In more cases than any of us would like to consider, educators have the moral and legal obligation to report concerns to officials when the safety of a student could be potentially jeopardized.
I hope this provides a more complete picture of our priorities and the thought process that goes into this important decision-making process. Should you have any questions, please contact me.
Content courtesy Brownsburg Community School Corporation