Southwest Allen County Schools pushes back start date, to offer live-streamed classes

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ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – Southwest Allen County Schools is changing its plans for when students return for the school year. The plan is dramatically different than previously announced to parents and students.

The school district is pushing back the start date of the school year by a one week delay. School will now start on Aug. 12, instead of Aug. 5.

The delay will not affect the school’s calendar.

“We’re a high performance school district. And state law allows us to count minutes, rather than days, and usually we don’t like to do that. But, in an emergency we’re going to do that. And we don’t want to disrupt the rest of the calendar, because people have planned their lives around it. Additionally, I think the stress of this school year is going to really necessitate us taking vacations,” said Dr. Phil Down, SACS superintendent.

The school district will also offer another learning option: virtually streamed classes called Real-Time at Home for secondary students.

The reason for the date push back and other learning option is due to dual credited students. Those students are taking classes for their secondary education, as well as college.

Dr. Downs said the Real-Time at Home will also be beneficial to students if they need to quarantine.

The initial Return to School plan, passed unanimously by the school board last week, listed two learning options for the 2020-2021 school year. Those options were “traditional learning” and “off campus learning.”

Below is the full letter to SACS families:

July 22, 2020

SACS families,

On Friday, SACS emailed you the Return to School SACS Family Handbook that introduced our available Learning Options for the upcoming school year, as well as the safety considerations and measures our district is implementing to keep our students, staff and community safe. The purpose of this letter is to update you about recent, important developments that impact the start of the school year.

First Day of School

As a result of changes we are making, which are further explained in this letter, the first day of school is being pushed back to Wednesday, August 12, 2020 (our district was scheduled to begin on Wednesday, August 5.) The date change will not impact the remainder of our district’s 2020-2021 school calendar. Teachers will begin working on Aug 3rd. Days will NOT be added or substituted and school breaks are still accurately reflected in our posted board adopted calendar.

SACS staff and teachers will return to school on Monday, August 3, as planned. Professional development, training and technology development will be offered to help prepare staff to develop proficiency and plans necessary to instruct in all the learning option formats offered. It also provides time to configure classrooms and instructional spaces to meet the standards of safety outlined in our handbook and purchase and test the technology necessary for the changes to Option 2 for secondary students.

The decision to push back student’s first day, also better positions SACS to respond should the Governor extend Stage 4.5 – Reopening Indiana, which is currently set to expire on July 31.

In-Person Registration Days

As the result of the state mandated school closures and Gov. Holcomb’s recent extension of STAGE 4.5 – Reopening Indiana, our schools are limited in how to register new students and/or host in-person registrations. In addition, we have to re-design how student devices are handed out. The push to start August 12 enables our schools to plan for the necessary components of these events while keeping in compliance of the Governor’s executive orders.  Staff will be on hand to assist with the additional days necessary to safely register SACS students and families.

Individual schools’ In-Person Registration will vary slightly building to building. Please look for communication from your school with specific details about this event, as well as Virtual Back-to-School Night information.

New Secondary Learning Option Introduced

Since the districtwide communication on Friday, July 17, our secondary administration team has developed a plan which meets the guidelines that colleges place on dual credit classes, to introduce a third Learning Option: Real-Time at Home. This Learning Option provides secondary students wishing to learn off campus the opportunity to take/continue their personal class schedule just like their peers inside the classroom, via Zoom and in real-time. Election to this format allows for the enrollment/continuation of all classes including Honors, Dual-Credit and Advanced Placement courses. This option is different from the eSACS Secondary Virtual School which is still available. Further information and description can be found inside the updated Return to School Handbook available on our website at www.sacs.k12.in.us.

Online Registration

Online Registration was postponed earlier this week so SACS could develop the new option mentioned above. Families can login to PowerSchool beginning Thursday, July 23 at 8 a.m. for Online Registration. In addition to updating contact information and forms, families will select their student/s preferred learning choice.

Thank you

Speaking for the team at SACS, we want to thank you for your patience and help as we work to provide a safe, high quality education for your children. Your feedback has been incredibly important and was very helpful. Over the past couple days, we were unable to answer all your emails and calls, but they were all critical in helping us as we considered the options. I realize there are still going to be situations that are not optimal for all families. We are sorry for that and hope you recognize our need to balance the concerns of everyone: students, parents, teachers, and staff, as well as our available resources.

We have some challenges ahead of us which I view as opportunities to model our Portrait of a Graduate for our students and each other. I fully anticipate the students will step up and providing us lessons as well: they always do. I have always viewed SACS as a collection of learners and am confident we will all help each other as we prepare today’s learners for tomorrow’s opportunities.

Thank you,

Dr. Philip G. Downs, Superintendent
Southwest Allen County Schools

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