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Questions remain as Indian Creek Middle School plans for new year

GETTING READY — Indian Creek Middle School teachers gathered Tuesday for a special training session to prepare for the coming school year. ICMS Principal Holly Minch-Hick, left, and Teacher-Based Team member Mary Jo DiPietro outlined plans and said a building orientation will be held on Aug. 10-14 to address parents and students in each grade. (Contributed photo)

MINGO JUNCTION — Teachers at Indian Creek Middle School began planning for the new school year as many questions remain on how classes will proceed.

Gov. Mike DeWine set forth some guidelines from assessing symptoms and hygiene to sanitizing and social distancing, with teachers and staff required to wear masks and students in grades 3 and up strongly encouraged to use coverings. However, school districts and county health departments will ultimately decide how to proceed, and school leaders hope to start the new term in late August.

Education officials are eyeing a combination of on-site and remote learning as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, and more than 20 teachers gathered at ICMS on Tuesday to learn how they could better equip themselves and their students to remain productive.

Principal Holly Minch-Hick and Mary Jo DiPietro, a Teacher-Based Team member and sixth-grade math teacher, led the initial discussion to outline how the new year will look, for now. Officials said parents may opt to return their kids to school or keep them at home, and the key is to ensure they all have access to technology and learning resources so they can stay up-to-date with their lessons.

Minch-Hick said school will follow the regular schedule and class times between 8 a.m. and 2:25 p.m., in the building and online, and teachers will give all assignments through Google Classroom, plus they will provide video instruction. Teachers may also use Zoom meeting programs to follow up with kids to remain in contact.

“We need to follow a structure and it has to follow a school day if we’re online,” Minch-Hick said.

“We will be engaged between 8 a.m. and 2:25 p.m. (whether it is in school or online),” DiPietro added.

Digital resources will also be available for virtual positive behavior intervention and supports and leaders were looking at ways to take attendance, such as gathering names each period. Technology rules and guidelines will be sent to students in a Google Form that are consistent for each class; This will allow students to reinforce their technology skills and expectations the first day of school.

Minch-Hick added that teachers are responsible for teaching the students technical skills at the beginning of the year in case another shutdown occurs.

Officials noted that while students understand how to log on to computers, parents also must learn the process. A building orientation will be held instead of a traditional open house on Aug. 10-14 starting with eighth-grade Aug. 10, seventh-grade on Aug. 11, sixth-grade on Aug. 12, fifth-grade on Aug. 13 and specialized sessions for students with disabilities Aug. 14.

Parents will receive a letter through the mail in early August with the date and time of their orientation. Those who attend will be based on their homeroom with one parent and one child per table and they will watch a presentation about building procedures and safety changes. Groups of three teachers will work with the parents and instruct them on computers, logins and teacher codes.

Assistant Principal Scott Abercrombie is recording video orientation sessions and Minch-Hick will include information in her newsletter.

“With the constant state of flux and uncertainty, this may be the best way to social distance and engage parents so that everyone is aware of the expectations for academics and attendance whether we are in the building or online,” Minch-Hick said.

Other changes being put into place to reduce exposure in the building include no lockers for students, who instead will be placed in cohorts and remain in one classroom while teachers rotate among rooms for lessons. Minch-Hick said that will require strategic placement and movement for teachers.

Computers will be distributed to seventh-graders and assigned to fifth- and sixth-graders in the classroom with the flexibility to take them home should the health crisis escalate. Since the future is uncertain, officials said everyone must be flexible for possible changes and details are still being considered at the district level regarding meals in the classroom and student busing.

Meanwhile, Abercrombie led a Google presentation for the group to discuss how assignments will be given online. Students at school and home will all work through Google programs and Abercrombie has coordinated digital resources to make the transition smoother.

“One of the reasons we wanted to create this is to have the same look and organizational structure,” he explained, adding that the learning programs were divided between language arts, science, social studies and math and include links to easily access online resources.

“It’s important that this be catered to the student and it must be organized for them. We’re organizing our material by topics and lessons, and when we push it out to the students, we will push out what we do on one specific day,” Abercrombie said.

Topics can be posted on a calendar date, enabling students to obtain material they may have missed if they are absent.

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