Noblesville Schools Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer, who often stops in to visit a classroom lesson (above), has been responding to questions from parents as well as the community about the school closure, which continues through at least May 1, as the result of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease) pandemic. Photo provided
Noblesville Schools Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer, who often stops in to visit a classroom lesson (above), has been responding to questions from parents as well as the community about the school closure, which continues through at least May 1, as the result of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease) pandemic. Photo provided
All Noblesville Schools’ activities, trips and events have been canceled through at least May 1, including prom.
Yes, it’s sad for students, particularly seniors.
District Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer meets with her leadership team, sometimes several times a day, to address the rapidly changing environment.
If students return to classes in May, there is still a possibility of a high-school spring dance, she said.
“Activities, trips and events are important parts of the school experience, and we know this has been especially hard for students, families and teachers,” said Niedermeyer, who agreed to respond to questions from this journalist. “We will look to reschedule some events, if possible. We’re continuing to monitor the status of events scheduled after May 1,” she said.
Monthly, the superintendent has a Table Talk at Noble Coffee & Tea, during which she responds to questions from parents as well as the community.”
Since the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease), Niedermeyer’s Table Talk has gone to a digital format.
“As we’ve received questions, we’re sharing them as Q&As on the COVID-19 info area on our website so that everyone can access them,” she said. “There have been a lot of questions regarding technology assistance and food resources.”
Niedermeyer said the district was prepared for this recent announcement of school closures.
Since the first news of the COVID-19 outbreak, the school leadership team has been meeting regularly, “sometimes several times a day, to address the rapidly changing environment,” she said. “I’m so proud of the way our district leaders, principals, teachers and staff members have jumped in quickly and effectively to plan for extended eLearning lessons, social emotional support, food delivery, technology support and more.”
Teachers traditionally have their classroom lessons planned out well in advance. And all school year, teachers have been prepared for monthly eLearning days, during which students do lessons from home on school-provided iPads.
But since last Tuesday, there has been extended eLearning that continues through at least May 1, with the exception of the district’s two-week spring break, which begins at the end of the school day on Friday.
“Developing curriculum and instruction for eLearning, especially extended eLearning, is significantly more challenging than face-to-face instruction,” Niedermeyer said. “Finding the balance between providing challenging assignments without overloading students is also difficult in this environment.”
She said, “Teachers have been working hard to be responsive to feedback and questions and have developed some really impressive lessons that I’ve seen as we’ve been making paper copies for students without internet access. Showing students that we care about them and their learning is the most important thing that’s needed during this stressful time, and our teachers have been doing a wonderful job.”
While this extended eLearning is new for everyone and “certainly not ideal,” the school closure and social distancing is important to the health and safety of students.
Niedermeyer said, “I’m thankful our teachers and students have had prior eLearning experience. I’m sympathetic to the school districts who are trying to build this structure and process on the fly.”
On March 12, Gov. Eric J. Holcomb granted schools a 20-day waiver of the requirement for 180 instructional days.
Last Thursday, the district announced the school schedule after spring break would have three eLearning days a week, Tuesday through Thursday, with teacher work days and no student lessons on Mondays and Fridays, through May 1.
But will the shortened time allow the district to get in all of the school requirements?
“Finding the balance between providing challenging assignments without overloading students is difficult in this environment, and we encourage students and parents to provide teachers feedback if assignments are too much or not enough,” Niedermeyer said. “Academic progress is important to us, which is why we’re utilizing eLearning. While it’s not perfect, it does allow us to continue to make progress on this year’s academic goals.”
Should students expect more work with fewer eLearning days?
“We want to reassure parents that our goal is to always assess where students are so we can design instruction to meet their needs,” Niedermeyer said. “There will be a lot of flexibility given to us by the state, and we want to reassure students that they will be OK. We will figure this all out.”
When the district learned of the closure through at least May 1, Niedermeyer said, “We opened school buildings briefly for staff so that they could grab additional needed supplies.”
All buildings are now closed, and the majority of employees are working at home. Noblesville Schools Educational Service Center employees are all working to support teachers, students, parents and the community, although the building is closed to the public, Niedermeyer said.
All employees -- educators and support staff -- are paid during the closure and will continue to be paid at this time, she said.
The district has also asked for employee volunteers to help prepare food for free pickup and to help deliver it. The plan worked out well last week, as Fueled for School nonprofit volunteers packed 600 meals, coordinated with school milk giveaway, during set distributions times. “The Noblesville Schools family continues to warm my heart because of their thoughtfulness and willingness to help in times of need,” she said. “I am proud to be a part of such a kind and caring group of people.”
There was more food distribution on Monday and Tuesday, with choice of pickup or delivery, with even more food distribution expected after spring break, and a list was posted on the district website of partner agencies, like Fueled for School. “Our food-service staff has done a great job planning all this quickly,” Niedermeyer said.
She has heard great feedback from all of the teacher efforts. “I have talked to many families, and they are so appreciative of teacher efforts to connect with their children during this unusual time,” Niedermeyer said. “There have been some heartwarming stories shared by parents about how much their children msis their teachers and friends.”
The most recent teacher efforts this week have been teacher parades through student neighborhoods, in their decorated vehicles, honking, waving and cheering to their students from afar.
After teachers from North and Hinkle Creek paraded on Sunday, the other five elementary schools liked this idea so much that their teachers decided to do parades, too, Noble Crossing and White River, both on Monday, then Promise Road Elementary, at 5 p.m. today (Wednesday); Stony Creek Elementary, at 2 p.m. April 13; and Hazel Dell Elementary, at noon April 13.
-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.