Students in Fort Wayne Community Schools need to adjust their calendars.
Classes will begin Aug. 13, not Aug. 10 as planned, Superintendent Mark Daniel announced Monday at the school board meeting.
This will give FWCS three days of professional learning with teachers to focus on remote and blended learning strategies.
The 30,000-student district still wants families to decide between in-person and remote learning by Wednesday, however. Those decisions will drive staffing plans, Daniel said.
“Parents, please respond by July 29,” he said. “We need that data.”
Parents debating between in-person instruction – which includes some days of remote learning for middle and high school students – and the fully remote learning option might rest easier with this update from Daniel: families have until Sept. 3 to change their minds.
“We feel that is very, very important,” Daniel said.
Daniel and his team spent about 90 minutes detailing how FWCS is preparing to educate students during the coronavirus pandemic.
The presentation followed board approval of 9,000 MiFi cellular hot spots from Verizon Wireless for about $1.3 million with a monthly service cost of about $148,000. The hot spots will provide students internet access and will be configured to connect only to FWCS-issued devices.
FWCS did not have a tablet or laptop for every student when COVID-19 forced schools to close last academic year. Implementing the one-to-one technology is crucial as 2020-21 begins because it's possible the virus could close schools again, Daniel said.
“We are very serious about remote training and handing those computers to our students as quickly as possible because we want to have that time to train,” Daniel said, adding the training applies to teachers and students. “We cannot go back to last spring.”
He assured the board FWCS is not sacrificing safety.
“Safety does trump everything,” he said.
The board approved a $9 million, one-year renewal with Sodexo Services for custodial services. As part of the agreement, Sodexo will clean at night daily, said Kathy Friend, FWCS chief financial officer.
Classrooms also will be equipped with products so spaces can be cleaned throughout the day, she said. Although not required, parents may send disinfectant wipes to school with their children, Friend added.
Other efforts include addressing ventilation systems, including regularly changing and checking air filters, she said.
“We're going to do all that we can to make sure the air quality is good,” Friend said.
Although Gov. Eric Holcomb isn't requiring children younger than 8 to wear facial coverings, FWCS will require all students and staff to wear a mask, Daniel said.
FWCS will provide masks to students daily. The district expects it will buy 4 million masks by the end of the year, Friend said, adding 3,200 face shields have been purchased for employees.
Students can provide their own masks, Friend said, adding masks should be clean.
Daniel told the board it is difficult to say what will happen when a student or employee tests positive for COVID-19.
“We have numerous scenarios that have been generated,” Daniel said but added there are infinite possibilities.
The superintendent encouraged families to go to www.fortwayneschools.org/returntolearn for more information, which is regularly updated.