(WEHT) — EVSC superintendent Dr. David Smith talked to Brad Byrd Thursday to provide an update on the district and to discuss COVID-19.
Brad Byrd: This is InDEPTH. Going to school- it seemed so simple at one time, not today. Classes throughout our region have resumed either in person or virtual education. It’s been a huge challenge especially for the Tri-State’s largest school district. Joining me live now is Dr. David Smith, the superintendent of the EVSC. Dr. Smith, not trying to jinx this but would it be safe to say so far so good and getting the learning process back in gear?
David Smith: Brad, that is absolutely correct. Our students have done an outstanding job, been incredibly pleased with them and, and really grateful for our staff. You know, lots of changes as you indicated lots of changes and challenges. We continue to refine what we’re doing and we will get better every day but just very, very thankful for the start that we have gotten.
BB: And obviously money is so very important. The Indiana State Board of Education approved a plan that allows the state to use data from the previous student count back in February to determine whether schools should get full funding regardless if they’re instructing students only over the internet or in person. Why is that so important?
DS: Well, I think for a variety of reasons. First of all, it provides stability for us. And it really is about 4, 4.5 million dollar swing for us. And we really increased our expenses because of our Virtual Academy because we added teachers and it was not a one for one reallocation from our brick and mortar setting. So it’s more expensive for us. So I’m grateful that the accommodation was made for all schools in Indiana.
BB: I’m trying to place myself back in our generation, how we would have reacted to this – virtual versus in person. How much pressure is that putting on teachers and the students themselves to suddenly switch gears midweek?
DS: Well, I’ll tell you, I think as you said from the start of this segment, a lot of challenges this year. So teachers are now responsible not only for the kids that they see in front of them, but also the kids that are behind the screen. And that is very, very challenging. This community, this nation owes so much to our teachers, and I hope that teachers do feel that appreciation.
BB: You know, we read those numbers every day and those numbers represent people right here in the Tri-State. Transparency, naming names is one thing. I’m totally aware of HIPAA guidelines, and we’re not trying to out students or teachers or staff who may test positive. But Dr. Smith should more be done to possibly identify hotspots in this school district, which is so big to take some of the mystery out of a possible spike?
DS: Sure, well, as you think may be aware of the Indiana State Department of Health is going to be publishing the dashboard and they’re actually the reporting agency. I don’t believe that school corporation should be doing that because we do want to make certain and it’s not just naming names, it’s also any information that could be personally identifiable information. So what we may identify at North High School would be different for a smaller school like Lincoln, which has less than 200 students. So we want to be very careful about that. And frankly, we’re not a reporting agency for that we’re going to leave that to the professionals, in this case, the Indiana State Department of Health.
BB: And you know, it’s not a perfect world out there. And I’m really dating myself, you know, there were hall monitors back in the day, and hallways as we’ve seen nationally, sometimes that’s when the problems start. How’s the EVSC doing with that aspect of the social angle of this?
DS: Well, in terms of hallways are students are wearing masks in the hallways and we are making certain that they don’t socialize in the hallway. So we’re, we’re moving kids along. But socialization is a huge part of growing up. So with the social distancing protocols that we put in place, I do feel that students still have the opportunity to socialize. But we want to make certain that we take those precautions so that we mitigate any risk of spreading COVID-19 in our school setting.
BB: We are entering the flu season and health experts anticipate possibly another COVID spike, what concerns you the most right now?
DS: Well, I think there are several concerns because as you indicated, the symptoms mimic one another. I’m grateful to the Vanderburgh County Health Department. They’ve also partnered with Deaconess, and they’re providing flu vaccines on our campuses for our families. So I think that’s very important. I think it’s also an opportunity to plug – everybody should get a flu shot this year. It is more important this year than perhaps ever before.
BB: I want to talk about the students finally, especially those young ones, I’m trying to process this kindergartners through third grade well, wearing masks. I’ve had people tell me you know when we think of it a lot of these youngsters, their earliest memories now will be the fact that they didn’t really see the complete faces of people around them. Has that been an issue in the EVSC with the little ones as far as how do you keep that mask on and wear it properly?
DS: I’ve been so pleased with all of our students, but particularly our youngest ones. I think everyone thought that they were going to have the most difficult task ahead. But they have risen to the occasion and they have been so incredibly efficient and effective in wearing their masks, I think it kind of speaks to if you set the expectation folks will rise to that expectations, including the youngest of our students. They’ve been great.
BB: Dr. David Smith we appreciate you updating us.