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SKYLERTS | Beginning June 19, 2020

Oct 16 | 12:30PM

At its meeting on Wednesday evening, the HSE School Board approved a recommendation to return grades 5-6 to 100% in-person learning. A second recommendation to extend the virtual-only option through the second semester was also approved. 
 
Grades 5-6 will return to 100% in-person learning on Monday, November 2. This one-week span between that return date and the end of Fall Break provides time to gauge the health of the schools and the community. 
 
Reflecting on the experience of the entire state, HSE has also seen a spike in COVID-related staff and student cases this week. As of 10:00 a.m. Thursday, a total of 252 students have been removed from classrooms for COVID-related symptoms, deemed a close contact and/or COVID positive. This is compared to 250 cases for the entire previous week. There has also been 12 positive cases already this week (as of Thursday morning), compared to seven last week. 
 
As you probably have heard, the HSE High School football game with Brownsburg has been canceled for COVID-related issues, and the FOCUS Day Program was suspended for two-days this week. 
When asked by a school board member if I feel confident, in light of the increased COVID activity, that my recommendation for bringing back grades 6-6 is sound, I responded that our protocols are working as designed. We are identifying positive cases and those affected. So far, no buildings have been closed. At grades 5-6, we will be working within those same protocols. Am I confident that we will have absolutely no interruptions of attendance? No, but I feel that we have the means to address the challenges. 
 
With the decision to extend the virtual-only option into the second semester, the question was raised concerning the instructional model we are using. In a previous board work session, we explained that our approach to connect all of our students with their teacher and with one another requires various levels of synchronous instruction or instruction that involves both students in-person and students who are virtual. It has required teachers to adjust their instructional approach and to develop and/or refine skills, both in the use of technology and in collaboration with one another. It has not been an easy adjustment for many of them. I have committed to examining options that might be available to address these concerns and to bring them back for further consideration at the next board meeting.
 
In the meantime, we are also reviewing the topic of returning grades 7-12 to 100% in-person learning. Those grades are much more challenging in terms of cohorting and distancing. However, because many of the students have chosen a virtual-only option, the reduced number of in-person attendance may create some more workable conditions, given the safety protocols that are now in place.
 
Finally, I want to wish everybody a safe and healthy Fall Break. This first quarter of the school year has stretched all of us in varied ways, and I am thankful that we all have a break from our new “normal.”  However, I remind all, COVID cases and associated hospital stays are on the rise in the state. It is not the time to relax our precautions. 
 
Take care, stay safe and we will see you in-person or virtually after Fall Break on Monday, October 26.  

Oct 9 | 12:30PM

At its meeting on Wednesday evening, the HSE School Board approved a recommendation to return grades 5-6 to 100% in-person learning. A second recommendation to extend the virtual-only option through the second semester was also approved. 
 
Grades 5-6 will return to 100% in-person learning on Monday, November 2. This one-week span between that return date and the end of Fall Break provides time to gauge the health of the schools and the community. 
 
Reflecting on the experience of the entire state, HSE has also seen a spike in COVID-related staff and student cases this week. As of 10:00 a.m. Thursday, a total of 252 students have been removed from classrooms for COVID-related symptoms, deemed a close contact and/or COVID positive. This is compared to 250 cases for the entire previous week. There has also been 12 positive cases already this week (as of Thursday morning), compared to seven last week. 
 
As you probably have heard, the HSE High School football game with Brownsburg has been canceled for COVID-related issues, and the FOCUS Day Program was suspended for two-days this week. 

When asked by a school board member if I feel confident, in light of the increased COVID activity, that my recommendation for bringing back grades 6-6 is sound, I responded that our protocols are working as designed. We are identifying positive cases and those affected. So far, no buildings have been closed. At grades 5-6, we will be working within those same protocols. Am I confident that we will have absolutely no interruptions of attendance? No, but I feel that we have the means to address the challenges. 
 
With the decision to extend the virtual-only option into the second semester, the question was raised concerning the instructional model we are using. In a previous board work session, we explained that our approach to connect all of our students with their teacher and with one another requires various levels of synchronous instruction or instruction that involves both students in-person and students who are virtual. It has required teachers to adjust their instructional approach and to develop and/or refine skills, both in the use of technology and in collaboration with one another. It has not been an easy adjustment for many of them. I have committed to examining options that might be available to address these concerns and to bring them back for further consideration at the next board meeting.
 
In the meantime, we are also reviewing the topic of returning grades 7-12 to 100% in-person learning. Those grades are much more challenging in terms of cohorting and distancing. However, because many of the students have chosen a virtual-only option, the reduced number of in-person attendance may create some more workable conditions, given the safety protocols that are now in place.
 
Finally, I want to wish everybody a safe and healthy Fall Break. This first quarter of the school year has stretched all of us in varied ways, and I am thankful that we all have a break from our new “normal.”  However, I remind all, COVID cases and associated hospital stays are on the rise in the state. It is not the time to relax our precautions. 
 
Take care, stay safe and we will see you in-person or virtually after Fall Break on Monday, October 26.  

Oct 9 | 3:30PM

At next week's School Board meeting, I plan to discuss two significant topics: the return of fifth and sixth graders at 100% and the extension of a virtual-only option through the second semester.

Our experience thus far with grades Pre-K through 4 has been positive. Social distancing has been difficult, but our students have done a commendable job of complying with the requirements of wearing facial coverings, frequently washing their hands and wiping down surfaces when asked to do so.
 
As we considered returning those grade levels (PreK-4) to 100% in-person, we reviewed our ability to cohort students for purposes of contact tracing. Now that we have spent some time with them, we are more comfortable with our decision from that perspective. We are also comfortable now at the prospect of expanding the 100% in-person instruction to grades 5-6, because we have similar safety protocols in place, and see cohorting as a feasible strategy to facilitate contact tracing if it becomes necessary. 
 
My recommendation for Board consideration will be for the return to 100% in-person instruction for grades 5-6 on Monday, November 2. This provides a one-week period following Fall Break, to not only monitor positive COVID cases, but also for staff to transition their instructional strategies and re-emphasize with their students all the safety protocols necessary for 100% in-person attendance. 
 
As for the decision to continue a virtual-only option, we recognize that a COVID vaccine is unlikely to be offered before the next semester. For the families who have compelling reasons to continue that option (virtual-only) for their children, this option seems reasonable. I will be recommending for Board consideration, the extension of virtual-only through the second semester. 

In the last month, approximately 400 elementary students have opted to return to in-person instruction, after initially choosing virtual-only. Although it has been a clerical challenge, we welcome those students back to the classroom, where they are with their grade-level peers and their teachers. 
 
So, what about grades 7-12? We would like to see them return to 100% in-person as soon as safely possible. Cohorting remains a concern; however, I am optimistic at the compliance we have observed at those grade levels in wearing face coverings, maintaining hand washing and social distancing. Given the number of students and the design of the buildings, social distancing will be a challenge when the buildings are once again open at 100%. Nevertheless, we are considering a 100% in-person return, when conditions within the schools and within the community indicate it is safe to do so. 
 
We have received reports about the stress that students are experiencing as a result of time spent in virtual instruction. The well-being of all our students is at the center of our decisions, and when those decisions have adverse effects, we have put in place measures to address those effects. If there are students in this district who are experiencing harmful stress, there are school-sponsored professional supports to assist them and their families. Please contact our counselors or building administrators, if you are aware of a student who needs assistance from a mental health therapist.
 
Our teachers continue to refine their work in virtual instruction, and I am proud of the progress they have made in such little time to expand their outreach to students beyond the classroom.  In some of our classrooms, virtual students are engaged right along with the in-person students. In other classrooms, teachers have set aside time to spend exclusively with their virtual students. In all cases, this requires a skill set our teachers did not have to exercise in past years, and as with any skill, it requires time and constant exercise for improvement or refinement. Virtual instruction is no different. 
 
I am often questioned why there is not a consistent model being used for virtual instruction. Our teachers are meeting the unique needs of their classes in ways that often appear to be different from classroom to classroom, and that is consistent with past practice. No two teachers exercise their instructional skills in exactly the same way, and there is nothing new to that. What we strive for is consistency in instructional quality, and our teachers develop their lessons with that in mind. I thank them all for their work to constantly improve; it is a challenge when you are developing an entirely new skillset. I encourage all parents to take the time to thank a teacher for their efforts this school year. 
 
Finally, I am pleased to report that we are resuming our work on the development of a Portrait of a Graduate. This work was sidelined in the spring when the COVID crisis assumed priority in all our planning efforts. Portrait of a Graduate is a visible and public statement of the knowledge, skills and dispositions that we at HSE, want to see in all of our graduates. It gives direction for those who plan and implement curriculum and instruction at all levels, from Pre-K on, and it gives purpose to our HSE21 model of best practices. I will also be discussing this project at our School Board meeting next week. I have covered a great deal of information today. Thank you for listening and for your time. 

Oct 2 | 3:30PM

We look forward to seeing our Pre-K through 4th grade students returning at 100 percent next week. That means all students will be returning to a five-day in-school week for the first time this school year. In order to provide as safe and healthy environment as possible, students will be expected to continue to wear masks, socially distance themselves and to wash their hands frequently. They have been at school the last few weeks and already know the new safety protocols, but the dynamics of having all the students together again, may require some adjustments in schedules, in pacing and in classroom activities. We thank all our students for their cooperation. 
 
I also extend my thanks to all the students in grades 5 through 12 and their parents for their patience and their persistence as we continue the hybrid 50/50 schedule. One of the challenges we face in returning these grade levels to 100 percent is the cohorting or maintaining manageable groups through the day for purposes of contact tracing if/and/or when a positive COVID case develops. 
 
As we now are bringing back grades Pre-K through 4, our focus is the preparation for bringing back other grade levels. For the health and safety of students, staff and the families associated with them, we continue to move deliberately and in consultation not only with our health department, but also with other school districts within Hamilton County. Again, we thank you for your patience. 
 
Much attention has been focused, and rightly so, on our reaction to the COVID pandemic and on our preparation for a safe and healthy educational environment. I want to assure you, however, that there are several projects and efforts that are still receiving attention and are moving forward. In ‘Portrait of a Graduate,’ determining what we believe to be the essential characteristics of a graduate is one of those projects. Defining characteristics such as: critical thinking, problem solving, creative thinking, communicating, among others, will add focus and vision to the development of curriculum and instruction at all grade levels for years to come. Continuing to develop partnerships within the community to enhance the educational experiences for students at all grade levels remains a priority. And yet another ongoing effort is to move forward the construction of a building to replace Durbin Elementary.
 
The COVID challenge has certainly forced us to redirect energy to immediate needs, but we have not lost sight of ongoing and long term projects, opportunities and goals. Have a great weekend. 

Sept 25 | 3:30PM

I would like to begin by saying how great it is to have students back in all our buildings. Though we are at 50 percent of our capacity, the energy is there and you can feel it. 
 
With Governor Holcomb’s announcement on Wednesday that the state is moving into Stage 5, there is a sense of optimism that we will soon be able to get back to some kind of normal.  We are processing his Executive Order and conferring with our local health department to determine possible changes to our Operations Plan. 
 
And speaking of changes, our students, particularly our high school students, have noted significant changes to the environment. It is not the school that they last attended. There are fewer students, and those students are wearing masks and so are the teachers. There are signs reminding them of habits of personal hygiene, plexiglass shields, hand sanitizer stations and cleaning supplies are commonplace. New procedures and guidelines, especially in the cafeterias, have changes many of the daily routines. While we all would like to return to the pre-COVID normal, the health and safety of students and staff remain a top priority.
 
I am frequently asked how parents and community members can help the schools, and I would encourage those who can do so, to consider serving as a substitute teacher. The number of subs right now is low, and maintaining consistent open classrooms is a challenge. If you have an interest in this service, please visit our website, where an application process is described and can be initiated
 
Keeping those classroom doors open has been a priority since when began planning for the school year. The Family First Coronavirus Response Act provides for paid emergency family leaves for those who, because of the pandemic, have childcare obligations that might keep them from the workplace. We opted to provide our employees a childcare service that would eliminate the need for absenteeism due to childcare, and keep our classrooms open. After students began attending on a hybrid model, that need did not disappear, in fact it became all the more significant, and we have allowed employees’ children to attend school five days a week -- again, to keep our classrooms open.
 
This practice is under review at the high school-level, however, where students compete for scholarships and grade point averages. Our priority was to keep our classrooms open, not to provide an inequitable environment for academic pursuits. We will be announcing changes to provide an equitable academic environment for our students and continued support for our employees. 
 
I am concluding today by offering recognition and congratulations to 24 of our high school students whose names have been released as National Merit Semifinalists. I commend all of those students for their years of effort that have brought them to this point. They did not do it alone, however, and I compliment their parents and teachers who contributed in countless ways to their success. Best wishes to all of them as they progressed through this prestigious scholarship competition.

Sept 18 | 4:00PM

Students are back in the buildings at all levels at 50 percent, and the only thing that could make us happier, would be for all of them to be here.
 
Elementary students from PreK-4th grade will be coming back at 100 percent on Monday October 5, and grades 5-12 will be determined at a later date.  
 
Our teachers have done a great job preparing for this 50/50 attendance model, working hard to create engaging experiences not only for the students in the buildings, but also for those who are being taught virtually.
 
To keep them as safe as possible in this COVID environment, we have had to make some facility adjustments, and I am standing in one of those areas we have adjusted, or maybe I should say, adapted for safe lunches. This is one of the courtyards at Hamilton Southeastern High School, and it has been set up to create more space for social distancing during lunch periods. In several of our buildings, cafeterias have been expanded into gymnasiums, halls, large group instruction rooms, and other areas. As needs change, we may be adapting other spaces in our buildings in ways we have not yet determined.   
 
I also want to update you on yet another new recommendation that we are following regarding face coverings. You will also see this highlighted in the Operations Plan. The changes reflect new guidance from the CDC, the Indiana State Department of Health and the Fishers Health Department, which includes:  

  • Masks with exhalation valves or vents should not be worn as they allow virus particles to escape. 
  • Gaiters should be reconsidered as your child’s primary face covering. According to the CDC, the effectiveness is unknown at this time and is still being evaluated.   
  • Face shields should be reconsidered as your child’s primary face covering. According to the CDC, the effectiveness is unknown at this time and is still being evaluated.
    • A face shield may be worn situationally, if: 
      • During instructional time when staff or students need to see mouth movements. The face shield should be replaced with a mask when the need concludes.  
      • A healthcare provider recommends a face shield is a better alternative for the individual. 

We appreciate your flexibility and cooperation in this matter.
 
I would also like to clear up some misinformation that has been shared on social media. Fall Break is not cancelled. It is is still scheduled for October 19 -October 23. Though it may have been discussed at some point, it has never been a recommendation brought before the School Board for approval. We hope that you will be able to use this time to spend with your family. 
 
This year, we have enhanced internet safety for all students and staff. We are using Securly, a cloud-based web filter that monitors the browsing activity of both students and staff when connected to the school’s Wi-Fi. Securly will scan for certain keywords pertaining to cyberbullying, self-harm or other inappropriate content.
 
For those with rental devices, parents may also benefit by downloading the Securly Home app to receive insights into your student’s browsing history, place restrictions on what websites can and can’t be visited and even pause internet usage while at home. We hope this new program will benefit all stakeholders. 
 
We’re all adapting to many changes, some of which bring levels of discomfort or frustration. I understand that, and I often feel those levels of discomfort and frustration. We are making those adaptations for the safety and welfare of our students and staff. And despite our best plans, we will most likely see more changes and adaptations. Please bear with us.
 
On that note, I wish you a safe and healthy weekend, and for those 5-12 students who are in the ‘red group,’ we look forward to seeing you on Monday.

Sept 11 | 4:00PM

Providing you with information and not burying you in detail has been a challenge these last few months. This coming Monday, our COVID-19 tracking dashboard will go live. This dashboard will inform you by tracking the number of students and staff members that have been required to quarantine for reasons related to COVID-19. The reasons for quarantine will be divided into three categories: Positive Case, Close Contact to a Positive Case and Experiencing COVID-19 Symptoms.  
 
The dashboard will update every Monday morning with new data from the previous week and will be a great resource for us all to track the number of COVID-related quarantines that are happening in our schools. 
 
We will also be looking to gather information from our students beginning next week related to their experience with virtual instruction. We are turning to them to direct our focus on improving our practice in that instructional area. 
 
Next week, we will also be implementing a new program for student lunches. As you may have read in a communication via Skylert yesterday, the USDA has approved a nationwide waiver due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This waiver allows all students to receive free meals, regardless of socioeconomic status. This waiver is active through December 31, 2020 or until funding is depleted from the USDA. Any purchases made September 1, 2020 through today will be refunded back onto the student’s lunch account.
 
We also want to clarify, if you so choose, you may order a meal pick-up on virtual student days. Pre-order form links are sent to families each week. This form is optional, but it allows you to order meals for your student the days they have virtual instruction. Meals that you pre-order are available to pick up on Tuesdays at the school of your choice, which is either FHS or HHS, between the hours of 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. These meals will also be available to you free of charge through December 31, 2020.
 
We have all felt the effects of COVID in more than one way. Tonight, we would typically gather for the Mudsock Football game. Per COVID-19 guidelines related to crowd attendance, only families of those participating in tonight’s event will be watching from the stands. In addition, the Mudsock VIP Experience hosted by the Hamilton Southeastern Education Foundation has been cancelled. This is a huge fundraiser for the non-profit that gives so much back to our schools, teachers and students. Instead, the Foundation has created an alternate way to advance their mission, while also celebrating the positive message of #WeGotThis and would love your support.
 
The Foundation is proud to feature #WeGotThis face masks that are available for purchase beginning today through the end of September on the Foundation’s website. With each $25 donation, the Foundation will mail a #WeGotThis face mask to you or you can choose to donate your purchased mask to an HSE student or teacher. Your support will help fund immediate needs and innovative ideas in the unique year ahead for HSE Schools. Please consider joining the Hamilton Southeastern Education Foundation in spreading the word throughout our community. 
 
As a reminder, Pre-K through 4 started 50/50 or Phase II on Tuesday. It was a different kind of start, but everything for the most part went smoothly. They had the chance to see their teachers faces in-person and know everything will be okay. This coming Wednesday is a ‘Blue Day’ for our elementary students.
 
Grades 5 through 12 will begin Phase II on September 17. The Blue Group will attend on-site Thursday and Friday. The Red Group will then be on-site for the first time on Monday, September 21. We look forward to seeing more of our students back on-campus. 
 
Next week I will also be presenting to the School Board the resignation of our Equity and Inclusion Officer, Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera. She has accepted a position in the Washington Township School District and will continue to do the important work that she conducted here. Our best to her, and now the task of continuing that important work here will go on. More on that in the days to come.
 
I would like to conclude this update by expressing my gratitude to our teachers and staff for their hard work and attention to detail to craft and deliver innovative standards-based lessons to our students, while our country continues to deal with a grappling pandemic. 
 
This isn’t a situation we ever trained for or dealt with, and yet we’re adapting it for both our in-person and virtual students. This will be a school year for the history books. We are marking a new path for public education, and what we do as educators and a community matters -- not just for our current students, but also for the future.
 
Together, we’re making it work, and I thank each of you for your contribution to this dynamic enterprise that we call education.  
 
Have a great weekend!

Sept 7 | 6:00PM

As students return to on-site learning, the health and safety of our school community is very important to us. Please know that we will work together to support one another as we navigate this pandemic. In the end, our objective is to provide an educational experience in a healthy environment that helps our students succeed.

In accordance with our administrative guidelines and procedures, we will only communicate confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the affected school, student activity or group. More information will be released district-wide if warranted. Notification of confirmed cases will be shared via Skylert.

If a student is identified as a close contact, parents and/or guardians will be called directly. All contact tracing will be handled confidentially by local and state health departments with assistance from Hamilton Southeastern Schools administration.

The names of those impacted (whether it is a student, employee, district-approved volunteer, or guest/spectator) will not be shared, according to federal privacy regulations.

A COVID-19 Dashboard has been created and will be updated weekly with numbers of positive COVID-19 cases and those in quarantine due to COVID-19.

At the same time, we need YOUR help to mitigate potential positive cases. Please remember:

  • If your student is sick, do not send them to school.
  • If you, your student or a member of your family has COVID-19 symptoms, please contact your primary care physician.
  • If you, your student or a member of your family has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, yourself and household members must quarantine for 14 days, per the Indiana State Department of Health. It is also recommended that anyone who has been in close contact be tested. A close contact is defined as within six feet for more than 15 minutes.

COVID-19 testing is available for all Fishers residents (ages 5 and over) at: fishersrecovery.com/testing/

Other available sites can be located via the ISDH website: coronavirus.in.gov/2524.htm

It is still important to follow all COVID-19 health and safety recommendations from the Fishers Health Department, the Indiana State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Cleaning your hands often, either with soap and water for 20 seconds or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Putting distance between yourself and other people (at least six feet).
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when around others.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash. Clean your hands after throwing away the tissue.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched objects and surfaces daily.

Again, we all need to work together to make Hamilton Southeastern Schools as safe as possible so our students and teachers can have a healthy educational experience. Thank you for your continued support!

Sept 4 | 2:45PM

A reminder to families with children Pre-K through 4, in-person school starts next Tuesday (September 8) on a hybrid format with 50 percent in school and 50 percent virtual. A student whose last name begins with A through K will be in the ‘red group,’ which begins in-person classes on Tuesday. A student whose last name begins with L through Z will be in the ‘blue group’ and will begin in-person classes on Thursday. Some adjustments have been made in ‘red’ and ‘blue’ assignments to balance classes, but you should have been made aware of those by now if your child is involved in that. Please remember that our school times have been adjusted to accommodate both virtual and in-person classes. In-person school will begin at 9:45 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m. For those students on a virtual format, school begins at 9:00 a.m.
 
For our students in grades 5 through 12, the HSE School Board, in a special session last night, approved a plan to begin a hybrid 50/50 model beginning Thursday, September 17. More details coming soon on that. Until then, we will continue on a virtual format. 
 
For our students who are enrolled in virtual-only through the semester, please be aware that a transfer to in-person can be arranged through your building principal. Also be aware that a second semester offering of this format is being seriously considered. We should have more details on that soon. I said at the School Board meeting last night that we would make a determination on that issue by late October or early November. For parents of virtual-only students who are trying to plan, we will also try to make that determination sooner than late October period.
 
As we begin our transition into the next phase of the operations plan, it is important that we remain focused on matters of safety with regard to COVID-19. Some will argue that young people are not seriously affected by COVID and that we are overreacting. Some argue that until more is known, we should not be opening our buildings to students too soon. Even at our meeting last night, we had two members of the medical profession express views on both sides of that question.

As a community we can address both sides of the issue by continuing to work to flatten the curve. Health experts are warning us about the aftermath of lax safety habits on this Labor Day weekend. They are predicting a spike in cases to follow, which could impact community health conditions, even for our schools. 
 
Let's prove them wrong. Let's work together this weekend to continue smart measures to address the challenge of the coronavirus. Wear your masks, wash your hands often, maintain safe distancing and avoid large gatherings. 
Have a safe, healthy Labor Day weekend. 
 
And to our elementary students, our buildings are ready for you! The teachers are anxious to open their doors to you!  We are all really looking forward to seeing you next week. 

Aug 28 | 4:30PM

Starting after Labor Day, our Pre-K through fourth grade students will return to their schools.

For those choosing to remain virtual, a little more information about this model -- we chose to keep our full-time virtual students with their assigned teachers and classmates, because it allows for better support from the people they have come to know and trust. 

Students will continue to work with their assigned teacher and will receive instruction in Reading, Writing, Math and Related Arts. Two daily Enrichment Sessions will also be delivered by the librarian, building specialist or counselor. Virtual students will learn the same content as their peers who attend on-site classes.  
 
Some of the material students will be taught virtually, may be in the form of a recording, and we did this for two reasons -- to better accommodate families as they work these assignments into their personal schedules, and because young students often need to pause and revisit the content of the lessons. 
 
Students will also have the unique opportunity to meet a community of educators from their school and see lessons taught by other grade-level teachers. We use multiple teachers for various reasons, but most importantly, teachers frequently use their “common or team planning” time to develop shared lessons in any school year. This year is no exception. It also exposes students to experts that are featured in our curricular resources. More details are included in the latest update to our Operations Plan. In addition, I encourage you to watch a short animated video that will help explain virtual learning further with your family. 
 
In his weekly press conference this week, Governor Holcomb introduced through Dr. Box, a new set of metrics to assess the wellness of Hoosier counties with regard to COVID. With those metrics, there were also recommendations for the operation of schools within the counties. 

While we appreciate the work that went into clarifying and simplifying the metrics and in establishing the recommendations for schools, we have been adjusting our plans to align with the recommendations of our local health department. 
We recognize that the recommendations of the two health departments are significantly different. Consequently, we will be working in the next few days to determine to what degree we can honor both sets of recommendations. It may require changes to our plan, and I wanted you to know about that possibility. 

In the meantime, we closely monitor the COVID data reported by our local and state health departments, but we also track among our staff and students, positive COVID cases and those who must quarantine as a known close contact. This information will be entered into dashboard which you will be able to access through our website. 

We will publish this information weekly and expect to have our first report online, the week of September 14. It our goal to be transparent and give you a snapshot of what is happening in our school community related to COVID. 

This pandemic has caused us to make some very difficult decisions as you well know. One of the toughest was just made on Thursday this week. Due to budgetary reasons, we are having to implement a temporary employment suspension for some of our Food Service employees that work in the intermediate, junior high and high schools. I am sharing this with you to clear up some misinformation being shared online. These staff members are eligible for unemployment benefits, but they have also been encouraged to fill some of the open positions for much-needed substitute teachers and bus drivers. We are hopeful that as soon as we are able to safely reopen the other schools, these dedicated staff members will return to their positions. Food Services for virtual and on-site students will continue to be available as it always has.

Aug 21 | 6:00PM

This morning in a specially scheduled meeting, the School Board approved a recommendation to shift PreK-4 students from virtual instruction to a hybrid or 50/50 model, effective Tuesday, September 8. Students in grades 5-12 will remain in virtual instruction for the time being, and a reassessment will be made weekly. 
 
This recommendation was based on guidance from the Fishers Health Department, which earlier this week, re-categorized the Community Risk Rating to orange, or significant level. At that level, elementary schools are advised to operate on a hybrid model, with an attendance level of no more than 50%. Middle schools and high schools are advised to operate virtually. 
 
Students will be selected alphabetically at the elementary-level based on their family's last name and/or household in which they reside. Families with PreK-4 students should expect further communication from their principals. Elementary families should also expect, after this message, to receive another Skylert with your child’s group assignment and directions for completing the in-school/virtual and transportation questionnaire. 
 
In the next couple of weeks, teachers will be refining their instructional skills for students who will continue to be with them either in-person or virtually. We had considerable discussion today at the board meeting about this instructional approach, stressing that this approach minimizes the reassignment of students to teachers as the students transition in and out of virtual instruction.  
 
A solid relationship between a student and teacher is foundational to a positive learning experience. Based on observations of other schools in session, we anticipate student absences, and we want our elementary students to know that whether they are virtual or in-person, their teacher is constant and that they can count on that teacher to be there for them.
 
Now this requires a more complex instructional plan for the teacher, and parents should not expect the same type of virtual instruction to occur that their children are now experiencing. In some ways, it may be richer, but it most likely will not be the same. This virtual choice is explained a bit further in the Skylert communication this afternoon.  
 
This phase using the 50/50 model is expected to run from September 8 to October 2. If all goes well, we hope to transition to 100% on October 5, with the virtual option for the rest of the semester. 
 
We have been asked if the virtual option will be offered in the second semester, and my answer is that the option remains under consideration.  
 
As I said earlier in this message, students in grades 5-12 will remain in virtual instruction, but that status will be reassessed on a weekly basis. We all want our students back in the buildings, and we will make that transition as soon as it is safely possible. Again, I emphasize that we will be relying on guidance from our local health department to make that decision.

I thank all who have contacted us with suggestions and observations. So many, in fact, that personal responses have not been possible for each of you. For that I apologize, but I can assure you that the messages are being read and considered in our planning sessions.
 
I encourage all in our community to observe safety protocols so that we can drive COVID cases down, minimize unsafe conditions, and get all students back into our classrooms. 

Aug 14 | 3:30PM

We have been in session now for only a week, and I am bringing another set of changes to our reopening plan.

For one thing, since we have reopened, it has become an operations plan, and it will be named such. When you go to our website, that is what you will now find -- an operations plan. 

The first change I would like to highlight is that our plan has gone from a four-phase to a three-phase plan. Phase I is designed to be four weeks of virtual instruction. Phase II is designed to provide four weeks of alternating in-person instruction for 50 percent of our students while the other 50 percent are receiving virtual instruction. Finally, Phase III is 100 percent in-person instruction. A virtual option for those who choose it, will remain available for the rest of the semester. 
If the health of the community and the schools permit, the first two phases come to an end in early October – and we get our kids back into their classrooms a month sooner than our four-phase plan had provided. 

We want nothing more than to see our buildings once again safely filled with the energy of our students and their teachers working together in the classrooms to make education happen. 

Safely is the keyword, and we will move from one phase to another when a safe learning environment is feasible. How we move from one phase to another is the next change I would like to highlight. 

The Fishers Health Department has established a risk level continuum by analyzing metrics that involve trendlines in the positivity rate of COVID tests, the turnaround time of current tests, the capacity to do contact tracing and other community vital signs. You will find this risk level continuum on the Fishers website, and we have illustrated it on page two of our plan document. 
HSE will use this continuum to drive our decision making during this COVID crisis. Obviously we have students and staff attendance issues that will influence our decisions, but working with the Fishers Health Department aligns our efforts with theirs, providing a coordinated community-wide approach to combat the spread of the virus. On their website, the continuum is a live working instrument containing an arrow that indicates the current risk status. The most desirable location of that arrow is in the “Level One” or the green area. 

HSE will move from Phase I to Phase II of our operations plan when that arrow is located in the green area or when it is in a solid yellow area pointed in the direction of the green. That decision does not come for another week. If I had to make that decision today, the arrow would indicate that we would not move out of Phase I. The arrow is in the yellow area (moderate risk), pointed to orange (significant risk). We need to see that arrow change directions.

The health of our community will determine the ability of the school district to transition from Phase Ito Phase II. We all have a part to play in making that happen. Wearing face coverings, social distancing and frequent hand washings are all things we can do to support a healthy community.  

For the next few weeks we will remain virtual; let’s work together to make sure that we can bring our kids back to class after Labor Day.

Aug 7 | 4:00PM

Our school year has begun, and I want to thank our many teachers for their countless hours they have dedicated to making it happen. I also thank our parents and students for their flexibility and patience as we navigate this virtual opening of the year.

We have met twice this week with the Fishers Health Department and Mayor Scott Fadness to review a new set of metrics that will help all of us assess, with respect to COVID-19, the level of risk involved in daily activities within the community.

As I have stated in earlier presentations, our reopening plan, or what we might now call our operational plan, is subject to change as new information emerges. We are in the process of reviewing the new metrics presented by Fishers Health Department and considering their potential impact on our operational plan. I plan to share a summary of those considerations and possible recommendations with the school board next Wednesday evening.

In the meantime, I want to compliment our teachers for the outreach efforts to introduce themselves to their students and to welcome them to a new school year. As we return to school virtually, we are also learning to navigate a difficult time for our nation. The global pandemic, economic hardships, and social unrest around racial injustices has created an unprecedented time for us all to negotiate.

In order to provide safe, supportive, and equitable learning environments to all studentswe are collecting information from families that have students in grades K-4. (For grades 5-12, students will take the survey.) This survey asks questions about your child's school experience prior to COVID-19, the last few months during the stay at home order, how the social unrest has impacted them, what concerns you have about learning virtually, and also how your family was personally impacted.

Results from this survey will help us provide additional supports to your family. If you have questions or concerns about the survey, please reach out to your child's teacher, school counselor or building principal. We appreciate your time and thoughtful consideration on this survey. It will be open for your input until Friday, August 14.  

We at HSE, are striving not only to make this a good year for all our students, we are also striving to make this a safe and healthy place for them to learn and grow. Thank you for bearing with us as we work to bring it all together.

July 24 | 4:00PM

A revision to the opening plan was announced last Friday, and it significantly changed the manner in which we plan to reopen schools. 
 
A four-phase reopening, modeled after state reopening plans around the country, including Indiana, now paces our approach to a total in-person school experience for our students. 
 
Many of you were dismayed at the lack of specifics in our announcement, and for that I apologize. Knowing the difficulty of arranging for childcare, I wanted this announcement to go out as soon as possible, even without all the details ironed out. 
 
Today we are releasing the revised plan with more specific information. 
 
Why a virtual reopening plan, many have asked. We have been monitoring health data specific to Fishers. What we have seen is an increase in the positive COVID cases. Just this week, the trend line has again taken an upward direction. We are seeing more positives now than when the governor closed the schools in March. Yes, we are testing more now, but the percentage of positives has also increased. We have also seen several positive cases in our athletic programs that resumed earlier this month. 
 
As quarantining has curtailed many of those activities, we have had to examine the potential impact of such positive cases on a reopened, in-person school setting. We need to see a downward trend in positive cases to make our reopening plans for in-person school a feasible possibility. In our plan, we describe the four phases of reopening and have identified the metrics we will rely on to assist us in making decisions to move from one phase to another. 
 
Many of you have asked what virtual instruction will look like, and how it will be better and more rigorous than the eLearning your child experienced in the spring. In the revised plan, we provide details of the schedule we will follow to provide virtual instruction. Some of the lessons will be conducted via Zoom or other conferencing platforms, and there will be opportunity for discussion between teachers and students. 
 
Some will be presented in what has come to be known as the “flipped” method, with a recording of a lesson by the teachers. This method does not provide interactivity, but it does provide a pause and replay opportunity for students who need to hear it again for various reasons. 
 
Before the first student day on August 6, professional development sessions will take place for all teachers to refine their skills in virtual instruction. We recognize that even after the point at which school resumes in an in-person format, virtual instruction is going to be a method often used for those students who, for one reason or another, cannot be with us in-person. 
 
Some may ask why we have scheduled many of the lessons to occur only in the morning. We learned from feedback last spring, especially from students and parents at the secondary level, that students were spending excessive periods of time every day trying to complete assignments. We have taken that into consideration and have provided time for assignment completion in the afternoon. This is a time that many teachers will be tuned in to online questions from students who may need assistance or clarification. 
 
Our teachers are anxious to see students return, and they are also anxious to resume their work under safe and healthy conditions. Our plan did not change the many safety components that we identified in our earlier planning, with one major exception. When we move to Phase II, it will be under a requirement that all will wear face coverings. Not only is this a proven mitigation factor for COVID-19, it is in compliance with state and local mandates.
 
As I have said in the last few weeks, we are working to prepare for a safe reopening of the school year. Our plan is fluid, and subject to change, even now. I will be returning to keep you apprised of changes that may become necessary as a result of changing circumstances.
 
Despite all we have done together to fight this coronavirus, it is still with us, and we must be vigilant in our efforts to contain its spread. I thank you for your cooperation, your own preparation, and I encourage you to follow CDC, state, and local guidelines to stay healthy. Our community’s commitment to good health is crucial to our ability to reopen and operate our schools.
            
Thank you and stay healthy.

July 17 | 4:00PM

Hamilton Southeastern Schools will adopt a phased in Reopening Plan similar to the one implemented by the Governor for the State of Indiana. Based on our local health indicators that are showing an increase in infections in our community and current staffing projections, the first phase will begin with all students attending school virtually. 
 
Virtual instruction will now begin on Thursday, August 6, 2020 and will continue through at least Labor Day. Conditions will be monitored carefully and the district will not move to the next phase until identified markers established in collaboration with the Fishers Health Department have been met. The complete Four Phase Reopening Plan will be made available to all families no later than Wednesday, July 22, 2020
 
Athletic programs and extracurricular activities for HSE Schools will remain status quo (Phase I). Students participating in these summer programs will receive additional information from their building-level administrators. 
 
The district is also working with the YMCA to develop a plan to make childcare available for those families who may need that service. We understand this is a change to our original plan, but we value the health and safety of our students, staff and families, and believe this will better meet the needs of the school community. We greatly appreciate your patience and flexibility during this time.

July 10 | 4:30PM

Many of you have seen or heard about the HSE plan for reopening. We are posting that plan today, and I encourage you to become familiar with it. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how fluid this plan is. We adhere to the guidelines of the CDC, the Fishers Health Department, the Indian State Department of Health, and the Governor’s Office. As these agencies become more informed and the guidelines are changed, we too, will adjust appropriately and change. I urge you to monitor our website for changes that take place.

Over the last few weeks, parents of nearly 10,000 students have gone online through Skyward to inform us of their intentions to send their children to school in the fall or to keep them home for virtual instruction. I am asking you, if you have not done so, to submit that information. We are using that information to plan our virtual instruction services and to determine how many teachers we will need for that service.

For the parents of high school students, we are very seriously considering an alternating attendance model, and it is described in more detail in the reopening plan. It may be a model that could be used at the junior high level, so we are reviewing that possibility as well. Please continue to monitor our planned site so that you are informed and know what to expect.

One of the issues on which we continue to receive messages from parents and students is the wearing of face coverings. As I said earlier, we are attempting to follow guidelines issued by the CDC and local and state health departments. In our plan we say that for students and staff face coverings are expected. We do not say, required because they may not be required. We have students who for physical or developmental reasons cannot wear face coverings, and we have teachers, who from time to time, may exempt students from wearing face coverings. Under what circumstances would a teacher do that? Perhaps when they take a class outside when distancing can be maintained, or during quiet classroom time when there is no talking and students can be distanced, or during times when approximately half the class is out of the room and the remaining half can stay distanced.

As I have said earlier this week in discussion with the school board, this plan will not satisfy all. There are strongly held views on both sides of multiple issues. The underlying purpose of our efforts is to provide as safe an environment for students and staff as possible. I acknowledge and appreciate that all of you are concerned about and dedicated to that same issue. We will continue to adjust our plan as we are advised and as we respond to new data.

Accessing the plan should be simple if you go to our website, you will gain access to the plan through a link in a banner near the top of the screen. We will highlight dated changes in a blocked section at the top of our plan as those changes are made. In the upcoming weeks, I will alert you to changes in the plan and spend time to clarify areas of the plan that we learn through your input that need further development or explanation.

In closing, I remind all parents who have not made their intentions known regarding the attendance options for their children this year, please enter those intentions in Skyward. Your input is crucial to our planning.

July 1 | 3:30PM

This update is coming to you earlier than usual due to the July Fourth holiday. First, I would like to thank the 4,500 families who have already completed the Return to School Questionnaire in Skyward. This information is helpful in giving us a starting point as we continue to make arrangements for the fall semester. While it may be difficult for you to decide how you will proceed without yet having all the information, you can go back in and adjust your answers as needed. To complete the form, please log into Skyward Family Access via a web browser (you will not see the forms in the app) and click on “Back to School Forms” on the left menu bar to access the questionnaire. 
 
This is an extremely busy time for us as we plan to the best of our ability the reopening of our schools and facilities. As a reminder, I will be presenting a first draft of our reopening plan to the Hamilton Southeastern Teachers Association tomorrow, July 2. This draft was created with the help of the Fishers Health Department and our School Reopening Task Force, comprised of some 50 people – parents, teachers and administrators. I expect it to go through another round of edits before I present it to the School Board on July 8. A detailed, finalized version will be available to you and the public on Friday, July 10. I want to thank you for your patience. There are many variables to consider and we must try do what is in the best interest of all our students and staff. Please also try to remember, this plan, can change at any time depending on various circumstances. We, as a community, must remain flexible and be prepared to shift and adapt. 
 
We understand this Independence Day and weekend may feel and look different than ones you have celebrated in the past. But we do wish you and your family a Happy Fourth, and we are grateful that we can still honor our nation’s heroes for all the incredible sacrifices they have made to bring us this day. Take care and be safe. 

June 26 | 3:30PM

This message focuses on our reopening preparations, and I ask that you share the content of this message with your friends and neighbors who have children in the Hamilton Southeastern Schools. 
 
I know that you are concerned about your children’s education and daily care and are, therefore, anxious to learn more about our reopening plans. Yesterday, the Hamilton County schools released a joint statement with a few details on how we, together, will handle the return of our students and staff in accordance to the local health department recommendations. This release prompted many to inquire about details of a reopening plan, but there is much more to do, much more information to process before the plan is ready for the public. 
 
I am turning to you to assist us in gathering crucial planning information. In Skyward, under the “Back to School Forms,” we have a “Returning to School Questionnaire.”  This form will provide us with vital information in terms of understanding staffing and facility needs. 
 
Some of the questions include: 

  • Will your student be returning to school? In-person, virtually or withdrawing?
  • More often than not, will your student ride the bus to school and eat school-provided lunch?
  • Does your student have reliable internet access at home? 

By answering these questions, we will be able to gain important insights on what our students will need when they return in August and what we will have to do to meet those needs. And don’t worry, you will be able to go back in and adjust your answers as needed as we release more information and your situation changes. I thank you in advance for taking the time to complete that questionnaire. 
 
Our School Reopening Task Force, of some 50 people -- parents, teachers and administrators are currently reviewing a first draft of our reopening plan. That plan was composed by several members of the HSE staff and has been reviewed by the Fishers Health Department. Once we gather feedback from the Task Force and make necessary revisions, we will share it with the Hamilton Southeastern Teachers Association on July 2. It will go through another round of edits before I present it to the School Board on July 8. I expect to have a detailed, finalized plan available to you, our school community, on Friday, July 10
 
As we prepare for our reopening, we are receiving thoughtful, sometimes research-based and often impassioned input from parents. It is understandable when their children are involved. Some are in favor of seeing face masks required, others who argue that face masks should be optional. Some who demand that distancing be required; others who say, “business as usual, please.” I have reminded our Task Force members, and I will remind you, that all perspectives are derived from what parents believe is in the best interests of their children.  
 
I assure you that we are forming a plan in the interest of the health and wellbeing of ALL students and staff. Also, please understand this plan will be fluid and ever-changing based on new information from the Indiana State and Fishers Health Departments. 
 
Thank you for your patience and thank you for your assistance.

June 19 | 3:30PM

As I reported a few weeks ago, a task force to examine issues and challenges related to the reopening of school has come together, and the process has begun. After gathering input from the members of the task force, administrators representing all areas of district operations convened to develop a plan.
 
After working with the Fishers Health Department, and relying on guidelines established by the CDC, I will be sending a first draft of that plan to the task force early next week. I am asking the group to critically review it for areas that can be clarified or improved. A final plan will be released in early July after revision and improvements have been completed. The purpose of this effort is to plan, prepare and respond. Our underlying goal is for students to report to their respective schools on August 5 as scheduled. Provisions will be made for students who are unable to attend under current circumstances. Details on safety features of the reopening will be available in the text of the plan. The health and well-being of all in our buildings, students and staff alike, is priority #1.  
 
There will be many procedural and operational changes that will become a new normal, and as I stand here, I am confident that new facts and concerns are developing that may require us to adapt and amend even our well-developed plans. In other words, we must be flexible to emerging needs and adapt as necessary. 
 
A debt of gratitude goes to the Hamilton County superintendents who convene weekly to collaborate on the strategies being discussed and considered in their respective districts for the common challenges that we all face as school officials. In that group, we also have an official from Guerin High School and the Options Charter Academy.  
 
While this is a challenging time, it is also an exciting time. We are looking forward to seeing our students again. After all, schools were built with them in mind, and an empty school building is simply not natural. We are excited to be planning for the energy that comes with a new school year!
 
For our seniors and their families, officials from both high schools are sending you details of the graduation ceremonies on July 10 and July 11. Be looking for those video announcements today, June 19. 
 
For the school community of Hamilton Southeastern High School, I want you to know that we have been screening and interviewing candidates for the principal’s position. We have considered some outstanding individuals to replace Mr. Cripe, who is leaving HSE to assume a superintendent's position in Oak Hill Schools near Marion, IN. We wish him well, and we look forward to working with our new principal. I anticipate making a recommendation of an individual to fill the HSE principal’s seat to the school board at next week's meeting. 
 
Finally, this message comes on a significant date in our history, June 19 or Juneteenth, the day on which the end of slavery is commemorated. This district stands in support of all our students, but at this time in our history, it is important that we emphasize our dedication to and support of our black students. I acknowledge Juneteenth to highlight the end of a deeply disturbing period in our history and to celebrate the hope and optimism associated with this day.
 
To you all, I remind you that the precautions that have become common practice for public health - the hand washing, the social distancing, the face coverings are still important. Please take care of yourselves. As you have heard me say before, we’re #INThisTogether.

Hamilton Southeastern Schools

  • Central Office
  • 13485 Cumberland Road, Fishers, IN 46038
  • Office Hours: M - F 7:30am - 4:30pm 
  • (317) 594-4100  (800) 905-6665
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  • HSE Schools wants to hear from you! To send a general inquiry to the District Administration Office, click here. 

Our Mission

Hamilton Southeastern Schools, as a forward-thinking school district, provides educational opportunities to ensure the success of each and every student, to become a responsible citizen and to positively influence an ever-changing world community.