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Indian Creek schools to delay start date to Sept. 8

WINTERSVILLE — Indian Creek Local School District officials have altered their school calendar this year, and buildings will open Sept. 8 to accommodate face-to-face learning.

The school board conducted a special meeting on Wednesday to approve its revised calendar for 2020-21. The new version changed the initial Aug. 19 start date and Superintendent T.C. Chappelear said there many reasons behind the decision.

“There were a lot of factors that came into play,” Chappelear said. “One was COVID-19 and preparing for the beginning of the year.

“At the same time, we have three buildings that do not have air conditioning. We take away 13 days for students who would be sitting in hot classrooms wearing masks.”

Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced that children in grades K-12 should wear masks, but the current Indian Creek High School and Wintersville Elementary are known to become exceedingly warm during hotter temperatures and hopes are to ensure student and staff safety and comfort.

“COVID-19 has been a changing target but it gives us time to evaluate and make sure we’re doing this safely. I feel confident about a face-to-face opening of schools and it gives us time to evaluate procedures,” he added. “It wasn’t one aspect but a combination of things, so the first day of school for all students will be Sept. 8.”

In the meantime, teachers and staff are using the month of August for professional development and preparation. Leaders had approved an operational plan at its July session should the coronavirus impact education in the buildings. Indian Creek and other school districts are working with their county health department to determine the best course of action should infection cases ramp up and will follow a color-coded system which incorporates state risk-level guidelines and contains a mixture of on-site, hybrid and remote learning.

The first would be implemented if Jefferson County becomes categorized as Levels 1 and 2 — or yellow and orange — and would provide face-to-face instruction with an online option for parents or students who are not comfortable with returning to school. Safety precautions would be taken such as health checks at home and on the bus before school, face masks, physical distancing, hand sanitizer and cleaning. The second scenario involves a hybrid model used at Level 3, or code red, and only 50 percent will attend a school building to allow for a reduced number of pupils while providing a combination of in-person and online learning. At Level 4, or code purple, the district will transition to remote learning and students will learn from home.

However, Chappelear said the coronavirus-related shutdown has enabled the district to get ahead on its estimated $45 million construction and renovation projects. Construction is beginning on a new high school in Wintersville and Cross Creek Elementary school at the district office on Bantam Ridge Road with Hills Elementary being renovated in Mingo Junction.

Hills is receiving a new roof, upgraded HVAC, electrical units and Internet and remodeled classrooms and will soon undergo an occupancy inspection, plus the available time has allowed the district to complete the final phase of corrective work to remedy design and construction flaws in Indian Creek Middle School’s parking lot.

The pandemic has given leaders food for thought when it comes to some added design features, and officials are discussing automatic doors and touchless water fountains to reduce touching surfaces.

In other matters, the board approved a revised memorandum of understanding with the Indian Creek Education Association regarding payment of supplemental coaching contracts with an increased percentage after the first practice and game.

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