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SKYLERTS | Beginning June 19, 2020

Jan 15 | 3:45PM

We return to in-person instruction next week with enthusiasm, and it is going to be a pleasure to see students in the classroom again. At its meeting Wednesday night, the HSE School Board voted to return students to the classroom in grades PreK-6 at 100% and for students 7-12, a hybrid (50/50) model will be implemented.
 
Acknowledging the planning, collaboration and student contacts that teachers are facing in this pandemic environment, the board also approved eLearning Fridays -- days on which students will tend to lessons online, much as they did last year. Many students, however, will have virtual contact during the day with a teacher, or perhaps with multiple teachers. Most will not report to school in-person, but every student is unique and teachers will schedule online or in-person conferences on a case-by-case basis. eLearning Fridays will be scheduled until the end of the semester and a revised calendar reflecting these Fridays was adopted by the Board as well .
 
In my recommendation to the school board, I acknowledged that the positivity rate in Fishers, at more than 14%, is much higher than the threshold for school closures that were discussed at the beginning of the school year. But I also illustrated that the attendance data leads us to question the safety value in keeping students away from their classrooms. The number of positive cases among students and staff has actually been greater while they have been out of school than it was when they were in session.

The positivity rate remains a crucial metric in determining school openings, but it must be factored with other metrics when making those decisions. We will be monitoring absences in the weeks ahead as we compile more data for decision making. 
 
It should also be noted that the desire of students whose choice has been to remain virtual will be honored. We invite them to return to in-person settings, but we will also continue to support their virtual learning .
 
Because our students have been away from the classroom for several weeks, I want to remind everyone to remember your masks when you return next Tuesday. I also want to remind everyone of the basic CDC guidelines for a healthy environment -- masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing. While our buildings have been continuously cleaned during this time of virtual instruction, it remains very important for all of us to maintain our healthy habits.
 
For all students in grades 7-12, we would like nothing more than to see all of you back in the classrooms. I cannot make commitments at this time, but I want you to know that we have been entertaining feasible and practical approaches to consider expanding additional opportunities for in-person instruction at these grade levels.
 
As you know, we have been interviewing for a new Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer. After weeks in the search process, we recommended Mrs. Rosalie Nataki Pettigrew for that position. She was appointed and will begin next Tuesday. A resident of Fishers and parent of two children in the district, she comes with considerable experience in the field of equity. She will work with the students, staff and the community toward a more equitable and inclusive school environment for all. 
 
I mentioned the school board in previous comments, and I would like to highlight some significant changes. Board members Sylvia Shepler, Amanda Shera and Clint Wilson have stepped away from the board. We thank them for their service to HSE, especially Sylvia Shepler, who served on the board for 20 years. Sarah Donsbach, Suzanne Thomas and Sarah Parks-Reese were sworn-in virtually by Judge Felix, and they took their seats on the board. They each begin a four-year term in office. We welcome them to the board and hope to become better acquainted with them in the months ahead, and we thank them for the commitment they have made as school board members.
 
I encourage all to reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, whose legacy is celebrated next Monday. Dr. King may have had an inkling of the challenges teachers and students of all ages face in this information-age -- “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”
 
Stay safe and enjoy in good health what for many of you will be a three-day weekend.

Jan 13 | 7:30PM

HSE Board of School Trustees Approves Moving Grades PreK-6 to 100% In-Person Learning, Grades 7-12 to Hybrid Model

During a regular meeting, the Board of School Trustees voted Wednesday to accept the recommendation to move students in grades PreK-6 to 100% in-person learning and grades 7-12 to hybrid (50/50) starting on Tuesday, January 19

A virtual-only option will be offered for students who wish to continue learning at home through the end of 20-21 school year.
Please click here to review the updated Operations Plan.
With this change in learning modes, the district will also begin holding eLearning Fridays.

“eLearning Fridays will provide needed time to support individual and small groups of students and provide a more targeted approach to instruction with enrichment and/or remediation for student with specific needs,” said Superintendent Dr. Allen Bourff. 

Students in all grades (PreK-12) will be able to access their teacher’s plan(s) and/or assignments through Canvas by 9 a.m. each Friday. 

eLearning Fridays will also give teachers with additional time to schedule in-person activities to complete hands-on lab experiences, assessments and professional development. 

HSE Schools continues to track COVID-related absences and positive cases, which can be found on the COVID Data Dashboard. The dashboard was created to provide transparency about what is happening in the school corporation.
Data for the tracker is collected from the school nurse at each building and includes information relating to students and staff members. The tracker is updated every Monday morning to show new COVID-related absences and positive cases that occurred in the previous week. The school nurse along with the Fishers Health Department determines the length of quarantine based on current information and guidance.

Please be on the lookout for additional information in the weekly Friday Update.

Jan 8 | 3:30PM

As we begin a new year, we would like to begin planning to return to routines that approach normal.
 
Who would have imagined last March when this pandemic was recognized that we would still be contending with its effects into the next year, but here we are. With the vaccine now being administered, there is reason for optimism. That being said, however, we are not at herd immunity yet, so mitigation strategies continue to be so important. 
 
Next Wednesday evening, the HSE School Board will receive a recommendation impacting student instruction. We are still reviewing the positive student and staff COVID test results that have been announced this week. The numbers have not spiked and are consistent with those of several weeks on record, but we also acknowledge that the impact of holiday gatherings may still drive up those numbers. 
 
I would like nothing more than to recommend that students return to their classrooms. Test results impacting staff and student attendance will determine whether I am able to do just that. 
 
The good news is that we have gained more than 40 new substitute teachers to assist us in our efforts to cover and/or supervise classrooms, where teachers are unable to be there. 
 
More good news is that more than 12,000 responses to our recent Skylert survey on in-person or virtual instruction have been submitted. The survey was issued, so that we could develop plans, especially at grades 7-12, for the return of students to the classroom. Depending on the number of respondents committing to virtual, we may be able to schedule the junior high and high school buildings for full schedules rather than a hybrid schedule. However, we need your responses because incomplete data is not helpful. If you have not done so, please submit your responses. 

Some of you have asked if your commitment to virtual on that survey can be rescinded. I assure you that the answer is yes. You may rescind that commitment, but if and when that decision is to be made, we ask that you work with the building principal. 
 
Some of you have also asked why we are not allowing important standardized tests to be taken at home by those students who have opted to be virtual. In most cases, we are not permitted to administer those tests off-site. We are most willing to work with parents to provide safe and secure accommodations at school for their children. Again, we ask you to work with the principal and/or the counselor to arrange those accommodations. 
 
In addition, we are planning to make a recommendation to the school board to designate Fridays as eLearning Days through this semester. An eLearning Day differs from a day of virtual instruction, in that there is little or no real-time online or digital interaction between student and teacher. It is very similar to what we used to see during snow days in the past. Assignments will be posted for completion, and students may submit their work via Canvas. As stated in the last video update before Winter Break, these Fridays enable teachers not only to connect with students needing additional assistance, but they also provide time for teachers to coordinate lessons with one another and develop engaging lessons for students, regardless of the mode of instruction.
 
School districts nearby have similar work days set aside for this purpose; however, some are not on Fridays. We have been discussing Fridays because it does not break up the week, and it not only saves on substitute teacher costs, but it also provides opportunities for deep cleaning of the buildings with disinfectants that are able to remain in place over the weekend. 
 
We understand the effect that this will have on family schedules, and this recommendation is not taken lightly. It requires that families plan for children to be at home on Fridays. Though eLearning is not as interactive as virtual instruction, it still involves students on their technology devices, accessing their assignments and submitting them for grades and/or credit. So it also requires varying degrees of support and/or supervision. We hope you would agree that this one-day-a-week of eLearning, inconvenient though it may be for schedules, is preferable to the two-to-five days a week of virtual instruction.
 
Finally, I thank you for your support this week as our students have processed the events in Washington D.C. Our teachers were guided in constructive, nonpartisan approaches to dealing with the questions and discussions from students. As disturbing as some of those events might have been, experience tells me that this country is resilient and is capable of rising above such “events,” and it will be our young people, many of whom are in your homes and our classrooms today, who will glean lessons from these events and who will take us to new levels of accomplishment.

As always I encourage you to stay healthy and safely enjoy your weekend.  

Dec 18 | 4:00PM

This week has seen a decrease in the number of COVID-related cases here in the schools. We have had 35 cases in which staff members have been quarantined, experienced COVID-related symptoms or have tested positive. Last week that number was 120. We have had 39 student cases this week, compared to 223 last week. This is a positive piece of information.  
            
I encourage parents to continue to report when their children test positive. Online reporting is very simple, and it enables more accurate situation assessment, particularly at the school building level. 
 
To prepare for the resumption of school following Winter Break, and especially for the resumption of in-person instruction, we have been processing the employment of new substitute teachers. We have 40 new substitutes and 90 more in the process. Five training sessions are scheduled before the second week of January, with the expectation that they will be prepared to begin by the third week of January.   
 
As it now stands, school is set to resume in a form of in-person instruction on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. A decision on the instructional mode is to be discussed and approved at the first regular school board meeting on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. 
 
Whether the return is a hybrid model of 50/50 or a 100% in-person return, many teachers will be working with students on a synchronous platform, meaning that they will be teaching both in-person students and virtual students simultaneously. 
 
Why, you might ask, would they be teaching virtual students when 100% in-person has been approved? The answer is that some students have opted to remain virtual, and some students will continue to transition in and out of quarantine or self-isolation periods, thereby becoming temporary virtual students. 
 
This synchronous instruction can be challenging for the teachers. They must tend to the needs of the students in front of them and also to the needs of the students who appear on the computer screen. This requires technology and communication skills that, admittedly, have been developed and refined over the course of the first semester, but that, nevertheless, do not ameliorate the stress of coordination.
To provide time for teachers to make additional regular personal contact with students, we are considering a weekly eLearning day every Friday through the semester. This would enable teachers not only to connect with students needing additional assistance, but it would also provide time for teachers to coordinate lessons with one another and develop engaging lessons for students, regardless of the mode of instruction.
 
School districts in the area have similar workdays set aside for this purpose; however, some are not on Fridays. We have been discussing Fridays because it does not break up the week. It not only saves on substitute teacher costs, it also provides opportunities for deep cleaning of the buildings with disinfectants that are able to remain in place over the weekend. 
 
The effect that this would have on family schedules is not taken lightly. It would require that families plan for children to be at home on Fridays. Though eLearning is not as interactive as virtual instruction, it still involves students on their technology devices, accessing their assignments and submitting them for grades and/or credit. So it also requires varying degrees of support and/or supervision. We hope you would agree that this one day a week of eLearning, inconvenient though it may be for schedules, is preferable to the two-to-five days a week of virtual instruction.
 
This year has been incredibly tough on all of us, especially our teachers and staff members. I want to thank all of our staff for rising to the many challenges that they have had to face in this pandemic. I would also like to recognize our very own frontline healthcare workers, our school nurses. Our nurses have been tracking COVID cases in our schools and spend many of hours contact tracing, so we can help slow the spread. 
 
Many have also spent time working in area hospitals during the summer and other extended breaks to help fill the need for COVID care. Some are working over this coming break to help area health care providers deal with the recent surge in COVID related hospitalizations.
 
With COVID vaccines now being distributed, 2020 closes with the prospects of a brighter year now seeming very real. I urge you, as I have since the spring of this year to be safe, exercise all the precautions that we have come to know, to maintain your health and that of those around you. We look forward to the new year and to welcoming our students back as soon as possible. 
 
Whether you are celebrating the final day of Hanukah, looking forward to Kwanza, preparing for Omisaka, decking the halls for Christmas or planning for New Years, on behalf of all of us in the Hamilton Southeastern Schools, I wish all our families, our patrons, and you a happy, healthy holiday season.  

Dec 4 | 3:30PM

The announcement of plans to extend our virtual instruction until January 15, 2021 went out on Wednesday. I have no plan changes to announce; however, I would like to provide some clarification for the limited number of students who are receiving direct in-person services and using our transportation services to get to school.
 
In the event of a weather delay or cancellation, students receiving in-person services will, instead, receive alternative services in a virtual format. Communication of these decisions will be made in the same manner that we have previously used. Skylert messages will be sent and we will also post these messages on social media. Because the group of students who are being served changes from day to day, a general Skylert message will be sent to all families in the district, as we have done in the past, so as not to exclude anyone. 
 
The “COVID slide” has been in the news recently. That is the term that has been applied to the learning loss in students due to the disruption of normal educational services. I will be sharing information with the School Board next week that indicates academic progress in reading and math in kindergarten through grade 8, as measured by the NWEA. Admittedly, there are areas where there were slight decreases in student performance, but overall, the indication is that our students have not experienced the “slide” that has been in the recent news. I am posting the results of the NWEA scores on BoardDocs to be shared with the school board for next week’s meeting. If you are interested in seeing those results, open the BoardDocs link and go to “Meetings.” The results will be posted under the “Superintendent’s Report” and available for public view on Tuesday afternoon, December 8.
 
Additionally, there will be a report next week of the most recent Panorama Survey results. These results indicate the progress made to address student perception of their teachers’ concerns for them and the students’ sense of belonging by comparing their recent responses to last year’s responses. I am pleased to say that despite the challenges of this last year, or perhaps because of them, areas of concern have significantly improved. Our teachers have taken to heart the concerns raised last year and addressed them in a number of ways, which I will discuss with the school board next week. As with the NWEA information, these survey results will also be available on BoardDocs next week under “Superintendent’s Report.”  
 
Next week’s school board meeting will have limited in-person capacity. However, one of the people in attendance will be Dr. Crystal Thorpe, Principal of Fishers Junior High. I invite you to watch the livestream of next week’s meeting to witness the recognition of Dr. Thorpe, who was selected by her peers as the 2020 Indiana Middle School Principal of the Year. Recognition of our staff’s good work just doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does and it is at a state or national level, it deserves a special moment, and that’s what’s on the agenda for next week. I hope you will take the time to observe it.

Nov 20 | 3:45PM

We once again would like to extend our gratitude to staff, students and families in PreK-6 for transitioning to 100% virtual learning this week. We understand this change was not easy, but we hope to resume in-person learning for PreK-6 very soon. The Board of School Trustees will be holding a Special Board Meeting on Wednesday, December 2 at 7:30 a.m. to reassess staffing levels. Please take a few minutes to review the Friday Update. It contains important information about reporting COVID related concerns during 100% virtual instruction and details on a few events taking place.

The latest version of the Operations Plan can be found here

A reminder that PreK-6 grade students are scheduled to be 100% virtual until December 4. Grades 7-12 are scheduled for 100% virtual until December 18. Although students are not currently in our buildings, we still want to monitor the number of COVID-related cases that are happening within our school community to the best of our ability. 
 
We have created an online form that we ask you fill out if your child has received a positive COVID-19 test result or has been notified as being a ‘close contact’ of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Once you submit the questionnaire, a staff member will contact you to gather additional details.
 
We understand this information represents good faith reporting by our families and there will be inherent limitations to it. However, it will also be used to support, to the greatest extent possible, informed decision-making by the Board of School Trustees. 

If you are looking for a way to help those affected by COVID-19, a blood drive has been organized by the Hamilton Southeastern Education Association in honor of one of our own teachers, Neil Wagoner, who is currently fighting this virus. 

Make an appointment to donate blood or if you have been approved, donate much-needed convalescent plasma, on Friday, November 27 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. The event is taking place inside Hamilton Southeastern High School’s new auxiliary gym. We have posted all the details here.
 
We were informed just this morning that beginning Monday, November 23, a second COVID-19 testing site dedicated to prioritizing testing for school-related exposures for Hamilton Southeastern Schools and private schools in Fishers will open at 8933 Technology Drive. Appointments can be scheduled by going to the Fishers Health Department website and selecting “School Testing” on the assessment. This is yet one more effort by the City of Fishers and the Fishers Health Department to address current and emerging school needs arising from the COVID pandemic. 
 
In a more routine announcement, we are hosting a Holiday Light Recycling Drive. Starting November 30 until December 17, you can bring in your unwanted, broken, tangled, and/or unusable lights to Central Office or one of our many schools. There will be collection bins placed in the buildings’ vestibules for a contactless and easy drop-off. 
 
Friday is the conclusion of American Education Week. We celebrate not only the services of our teachers and staff, but also the commitment of parents and the local citizens throughout the country to provide the wherewithal for students of all capabilities, backgrounds and interests to prepare for their futures. 
 
Like most other institutions during this COVID pandemic, public education has had to flex and pivot to meet the challenges that have come its way. HSE has faced similar challenges and continues to flex, as we have seen this week, to meet those challenges. As 2020 began, digital conferencing and synchronous instruction were terms rarely used in teachers’ lesson planning.  Today they are commonplace, but they require an enormous effort by our teachers; as a staff, they are still learning and still incorporating best practices into their daily instruction.  
 
In the past, American Education Week was celebrated with open houses and programs where students and teachers could share with parents a glimpse of the artifacts of learning. Through technology, that glimpse can take place in real time almost every day.
 
In a virtual setting, like many other national observances, American Education Week has taken on a new form, but we still celebrate the dedication of professionals to the educational needs of their students, and as superintendent, I commend them all.
 
Finally, I wish to remind students that Monday and Tuesday next week are regular virtual attendance days; don’t start the break early. Despite that reminder, I wish all a happy Thanksgiving and restful break.

Nov 18 | 4:30PM

Click here for the latest version of the Operations Plan

As a reminder, students in PreK-6 begin 100% virtual instruction beginning tomorrow, Thursday, November 19 through Friday, December 4.

The Board of School Trustees will reassess the situation for grades PreK-6 prior to December 4 to determine the best learning model for students moving forward. Students in grades 7-12 will continue to be 100% virtual until Winter Break (December 18).

Please be on the lookout for continued communication regarding our Operations Plan.

Nov 17 | 10:00AM

The Board of School Trustees on Tuesday morning voted to move students PreK-6 to 100% Virtual Instruction, effective on Thursday, November 19 through Friday, December 4.  

We continue to experience a lack of sub coverage for many of our classrooms, despite our best attempts to reroute additional resources from the secondary buildings to assist in filling open positions in grades PreK-6.

The board will reassess the situation for PreK-6 prior to December 4 to determine the best learning model for students moving forward. Students in grades 7-12 will continue to be 100% virtual until Winter Break (December 18).

We understand how difficult this is for students, staff and families. Please know that we remain committed to serving the school community through this pandemic.

It was also approved by the board to ensure HSE support staff are paid during this period of 100% virtual instruction for students.  

For families in need of childcare, the Fishers YMCA will be offering an all-day care option at Riverside Intermediate from 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Click here for more information and to register your child.  

During this time, it’s imperative that families stay connected with their child’s teacher and school as additional details become available. District updates will continue to be posted here.

Nov 13 | 5:00PM

I hope this message finds you well. This has been a tough week in terms of COVID transmission and cases. You can go to the Indiana State Board of Health website and see for yourself that our statistical indicators are very concerning, with some as serious as we have seen since COVID-19 became a public health crisis.  
 
Here in the Hamilton Southeastern Schools, we have been successful in maintaining a relatively safe and healthy environment. We shared with the school board this week that our rate of transmission within the schools is at or below 4-percent, with only 10 positive cases with potential links to school activities, and we agree when patrons have claimed that our students, while they are in school, may be in the safest environment in the community. That being said, we have been affected and have felt the strain, as evidenced through our staff and student attendance.
 
Since we came back from Fall Break on October 26, we have had 259 staff members and 2,411 students quarantined for various periods of time, due to contact tracing, exhibiting COVID-like symptoms or testing positive. In that period of time, we have had 32 staff members and 163 students testing positive.
 
We faced today with the prospects of at least 226 absences, 90 of them not covered by substitutes. In the past week, we have had several teaching positions for which we could not secure substitute teachers. In those cases, we saw administrators, counselors, teacher development specialists and media specialists step up to cover classes. We combined classes where we could, observing distancing and cohorting. We had teachers giving up their preparation time to cover missing colleagues’ classes. In short, we have seen exemplary efforts to provide and/or maintain high-quality learning environments and services, and for that, I thank and commend all our staff.
 
The school board, on Wednesday evening, approved a proposal to return grades 7-12 to virtual instruction until the end of the semester. This will enable us to divert substitute teachers, food service employees and custodians from those buildings to schools serving grades PreK-6. This increase in resources will better position us to cover teacher absences with qualified substitutes, more efficiently serve meals and enhance our already stepped-up cleaning regimens in those buildings. 
I would like to say that this is the last operational change you will hear about until then, but I cannot offer you that assurance. We continue to monitor the health of our staff and students, and we will continue to respond to changing conditions with priority given to what is in the best interest of our students.
 
While the effects of COVID dominate the school conversations, there are other issues. After years of discussion and months of study, the school board approved new start times for next school year. The new schedule has elementary students starting school at 7:40 a.m. and ending their day at 2:10 p.m., high school students from 8:20 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. and grades 5-8 from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Understanding that this has an impact on planning at home, the timing of this decision was intended to provide families several months for consideration and planning.
 
In the upcoming months you will hear discussion and reports resulting the work of a committee assigned to study the prospects of a feeder system for our two high schools. The school board approved a recommendation to examine the feasibility of such a system and to explore how grade level reconfiguration might factor into the topic. More to come on that project.
 
Another project you will be hearing about is the HSE Portrait of a Graduate. We are among the top performing school districts in the state, as determined by test scores, graduation rates, attendance and other quantifiable measures. But education is so much more than that, and we have identified characteristics that we prioritize as we work with students from preschool to high school graduation. The Portrait of a Graduate is a model that highlights foundational academic preparation, but it also emphasizes communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, self-management and global consciousness. This project is the culmination of years of work, involving parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders within our community. Why have we done it? Within all the distractions of a constantly changing world, it will serve as a visual reminder of those important characteristics that our graduates will need to be successful in the workplace, post-secondary training, or college.
 
Finally, and on a rather fun note, I would like to invite any and all to help the school board determine a name for our new elementary school that will soon undergo construction on the corner of Boden Road and 156th Street. A suggestion at the school board meeting was Deer Creek Elementary, a name celebrating the history of the musical venue in that area of Wayne Township. However, the board is open to suggestions and invites all to participate in the process. Simply go to our website and enter your suggestion under Name our New School. We look forward to seeing the ideas.
 
Thanks for your attention, as I have said so many time, take of yourselves, follow the CDC guidelines, and stay safe!  

Nov 6 | 4:30PM

Like many of you, I have lost sleep this week watching the ongoing presidential election results. Perhaps by the time this video is released, we will know those results. 
 
Closer to home, I am grateful for the local citizens who put themselves through public scrutiny to run for a seat on the HSE School Board. To the winners, Sarah Donsbach from Delaware Township, Suzanne Thomas in Fall Creek Township, and Sarah Parks-Reese from Wayne Township, I offer my congratulations and gratitude. To the other candidates, I say thank you, and I urge you stay committed to the welfare of our young people.
 
In other matters, we continue to grapple with the impact of COVID-19. For those of you who rely on our Transportation Department, you may know from time to time that our buses are running behind schedule. Please have patience. On Friday morning, we dealt with 55 routes in which a driver was absent. In those cases, we have sub drivers or we double up and other drivers are temporarily assigned to drive those routes. 
 
Students may be coming home saying that they saw their principal or faculty members serving lunch. They weren’t just seeing things. We have had administrators and teachers this week wearing several hats due to COVID-related absenteeism among the staff in our Food Services Department.
 
Teachers have also been impacted by the virus, but their attendance continues to be such that school has remained open. To our teachers and many other employees, I extend a heartfelt thanks for working so hard to make things work. 
 
As this COVID season drags on, we continue to learn more and more about its transmission. So far there are very few cases in which we suspect that transmissions occurred at school. Most of the positive cases have been traced back to social gatherings outside of school. With that in mind, I urge you not to drop your defenses. Masks, hand washing and social distancing continue to be the tried and true strategies to prevent the spread. 
 
As of Thursday afternoon, we had over 750 students quarantined this week, 522 due to contact tracing, 182 for COVID-like symptoms and 60 positive cases. Like the rest of the community, we are seeing higher numbers than we have seen in previous weeks. I thank all you parents, who have had to stop what you were doing this week to pick up your child and contend with the quarantining. It is terribly inconvenient for you and possibly for your employer, but it is also terribly important as we work to prevent the spread. 
 
In an attempt to be as transparent and accurate as possible, we report out every Monday morning the numbers of individuals affected by COVID. To access this information, go to the district website and click on the Operations Plan. It will take you to a page on which you may click on a COVID-19 data dashboard. There you will find a bar chart illustrating the previous week’s student and staff absentee statistics, per building if you so choose. 
 
This video has been dominated by COVID-related matters, but I assure you that the HSE education enterprise is moving forward at all levels. The student art now on display at the Central Office is an example of the work that goes on every day in our many art classrooms. A student election at Thorpe Creek Elementary this week brought focus on civil discourse, the Electoral College and our political process. A composition class at Riverside Junior High focusing on fiction, nonfiction and narrative writing, involved students in the classroom and at home through a Zoom-enabled discussion. Two fourth grade students at Lantern Road Elementary - one virtual, one in her classroom, both working on a writing assignment together through their iPads. Hamilton Southeastern High School choral students choreographing dance moves synchronously through Zoom for an upcoming program. Our teachers and their students are moving forward, and we celebrate their work in this challenging environment!
 
Have a great and safe weekend.

Oct 30 | 3:30PM

Just as the state and most of the country have experienced an increase in COVID statistics, so has HSE Schools. With 456 cases, we have seen a 17 percent rise in student absences this week due to contact tracing, COVID-related symptoms and positive cases. This rise in student absences was among the reasons the school board paused the return of fifth and sixth graders until further notice. That decision was difficult, knowing how many students were looking forward to resuming classes five days a week with all their classmates. However, the bottom line for the school board was health and safety for students and staff. Another return date has not yet been established. 
We are learning more every day, not only in regard to COVID-19, but how to better support our in-person and virtual-only learners. A challenge in meeting the needs of the virtual-only students appears to be state mandated testing. The administration of those tests, with few exceptions, is not permitted off-site.  Planning is now being done to accommodate the needs of those students with the mandate of current test administration guidelines. If you are a parent of a student who is virtual-only, please anticipate further guidelines in the upcoming weeks.  
 
Elementary families, we need to adjust the dismissal times for car riders and bus riders. Your buildings have communicated this information with you, but as a reminder - starting on Monday, November 2 - all car riders will be dismissed at 3:15 p.m. and bus dismissal will begin at 3:30 p.m. This change is due to having more car riders this year, which is causing school parking lots to be jammed and buses not able to exit. We hope this will help with traffic flow. For the virtual-only students, teachers will be communicating with new times to connect in the afternoon. 
 
At Wednesday’s school board meeting, a recommendation was made for the board to consider new start times, beginning next school year. The recommendation comes after more than six months of work by an advisory committee (ORTAC) that was appointed to give further study to a recommendation that was presented to the school board in February 2020. A decision on that recommendation is on the November 11 board agenda. For further information, you may view the proceedings of the board meeting, or you may go to the HSE website that contains start time information.  
 
We had some exciting news from Fall Creek Elementary - just today.
Cafeteria Manager Amy Reade was named the 2020 School Food Service Employee of the Year. This award is given in partnership with the Indiana Nutrition Council and the Indiana Department of Education, and was created in 1997 to recognize employees who contribute significantly to the health and learning capabilities of students. Congratulations to Amy Reade and to the Fall Creek Elementary Food Services staff. 
 
Finally, I’d like to remind all families that safe practices for this Halloween look different from safe practices of the past. The City of Fishers’ website contains several valuable safety tips and ideas for trick or treat alternatives in this COVID environment. I wish everyone an enjoyable weekend, but moreover, I wish everyone a safe weekend.

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.