PHM School Superintendent to recommend online learning until Oct. 22

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(Photo supplied/Penn-Harris-Madison Schools)

Penn-Harris-Madison School Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker will recommend to the school board that students begin the school year with online education only. In a letter to parents, Thacker stated that the administration will recommend to the P-H-M Board of School Trustees at a School Board meeting on Monday, Aug. 3, that all students participate in a virtual learning environment from the first day of school, August 19 through October 22. Parents will then be surveyed whether they’d like their student to return to the classroom or to continue with online studies.

This comes after the St. Joseph County Department of Health issued metrics for schools to take into account. The health departments’s Red-Yellow-Green metric puts the county in the red, right now, with more than 28 cases of new COVID-19 cases per day. So, they recommend schools strongly consider online learning. Just under that case number, they recommend schools should consider a mix of online and reduced classroom learning. When  the county gets to just 14 cases or lower per day, they consider it safe to send kids back to the classroom.

School City of Mishawaka announced earlier this week its students would start the school year with virtual learning until at least Sep. 18.

South Bend School Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings will present a back-to-school plan for board members to vote on next week.

Below is the full letter sent to PHM parents and families:

July 30, 2020

Dear P-H-M Families, 

We have been communicating regularly with medical professionals at the St. Joseph County Department of Health (SJCDH) and receiving guidance regarding the status of coronavirus activity and community transmission in making decisions regarding the safest model for curriculum delivery. The current thresholds for consideration by SJCDH strongly recommend that St. Joseph County Schools open in a virtual learning environment.

They also provided guidance on extracurricular and co-curricular activities. Those programs are being monitored and are under review.

The administration will recommend to the P-H-M Board of School Trustees at a School Board meeting on August 3, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. that all students participate in a virtual learning environment from the first day of school, August 19 through October 22. During the established virtual learning period, we will continue to collaborate with the SJCDH regarding further discussions and recommendations.

Prior to October 22, and the decision to return students to in-person instruction, we will ask parents which option they will be choosing by providing a parent survey. Parents will not be bound by their previous choice.

When we return, we will continue to offer two options: in-person or virtual instruction. 

  • On October 27 (or when the SJCDH deems it appropriate) students who are enrolled in the in-person program will return to school.
  • On October 27 students who are enrolled in the virtual learning program will continue with virtual learning.

Established metrics, provided by the SJCDH, will determine when it is safe to return to in-person learning. Families will be given a two week notice of any changes to return to in-person learning.

Thank you for your ongoing support and partnership. 

Please stay safe and healthy!

Dr. Jerry Thacker

Superintendent

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