"It's going to be a roller coaster this year. We need to get ready for the ride."
That's the assessment of New Prairie school board president Phil King regarding the upcoming school year. About 75 New Prairie parents and teachers attended a public meeting Monday to hear what school will be like when it resumes in less than three weeks.
Administrators recently sent out a second round of surveys to parents. Superintendent Dr. Paul White noted that the most popular single option was returning to school 100%. However, he acknowledged that just shy of 60% of respondents preferred some other option.
Most in attendance Monday night seemed to favor students returning to classrooms in some capacity. Only one person spoke out against.
Ultimately, the board accepted White's recommendation to start the year with a 50% attendance schedule. Students will attend classes two days per week and work from home the other three. Administrators stress that the online portion will be handled better this year, with continued interaction from teachers and more accountability expected from students.
White says enough families requested an online-only option for a virtual academy to be offered, even though that wasn't part of the original plan. "It got to the point the number was large enough," White says, "that we felt like we had a responsibility." White says about 150 families wanted online-only, and with over 400 others preferring some form of e-learning, he suspects the virtual academy will grow.
As for those returning to New Prairie classrooms, they will be donning masks both in school and on busses. Other precautions may be put in place, depending on the change in public health conditions in coming weeks.
The key, leaders agree, is flexibility. "We are farther outside the box than we ever thought we'd have to be in education," says board member Al Williamson. "Let's make it fun; let's do something better."
The fun at New Prairie starts August 13.