Parents of Fort Wayne Community Schools students will have until Wednesday, July 29, to decide whether they will send their children to school buildings for in-person instruction or opt for remote learning this fall. The district will provide in-school learning five days a week for elementary school students when school begins Aug. 10, while middle school and high school students will have alternating schedules with, at most, three days in their school buildings each week.
“I think it’s absolutely critical that we allow parents to have choice, and we are presenting (remote learning) as a viable alternative to being in the building every day,” FWCS Superintendent Mark Daniel said at a press conference July 15. “… If we do have more and more remote learning, we’re able to do a greater and greater amount of social distancing.”
Daniel presented the “current plan” for reopening schools in August, though he pointed out that adjustments will likely be made over time.
Parents wanting their children to attend school fully remotely will have to let the district know through its parent portal, which opened July 20. Parents will receive instructions when the portal opens.
Daniel said the number of parents who decide to keep their children at home will determine a number of details regarding the upcoming school year — especially as they relate to staffing.
“You can imagine the transportation, the food service, the scheduling that has to take place, what adjustments we will have to make in regards to our teaching — how that is going to happen in buildings,” he said.
In each of the middle schools and high schools, student populations attending classes in person will be split into two groups. Half those students will attend school in person on Mondays and Thursdays every week, while the other group will come into the building on Tuesdays and Fridays. The groups will attend in-person classes on alternating Wednesdays. Any days students are not within the building will be e-learning days.
Elementary school students will have the option of attending school in person Monday through Friday, or participating remotely five days a week. Daniel said the district chose not to have elementary school students on an alternating schedule out of concern for where those students would go during the days they are not attending in person.
“We can control the environment when we have the students within our buildings,” he said. “We cannot once they leave us, even with best intentions. … We know that (grades) 6-12 are more independent, they can be at home, and hopefully with parent influence they can be connected to us on a daily basis, either in person or remote.”
The district was able to offer fully remote learning to students at all grade levels, should they choose that option, because of a move to 1:1, putting electronic devices in the hands of each and every student. The district is still working through how to distribute those devices ahead of the first day of school.
Daniel said the district also plans to provide internet connectivity to households that are in need of it.
“Every one of our families should be able to access the internet, and that cost will be primarily on FWCS,” he said.
FWCS plans to provide disposable face masks to every student in the building each day. Masks will be required at every grade level, including elementary students, where social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained. Every staff member will be required to wear a face covering as well. Schools will provide opportunities throughout the day for individuals to take a break from wearing their mask.
There will be assigned seating in every classroom and on buses, and lunches will be delivered to students in their classrooms. In addition to providing hand-cleaning opportunities and frequent cleaning of surfaces, the district plans to increase its air filtration strength within buildings.
Daniel said students who choose to attend school remotely will still be allowed to participate in co-curricular activities.