Vigo County School Corp. superintendent Rob Haworth hopes to have eight high school construction/renovation concepts narrowed to three by August, he told School Board members during Monday's work session at McLean Education Center.

In April, the district conducted eight community meetings to get community feedback on the eight concepts, and it also has engaged the public through "Thought Exchanges" using social media. The district has used School Messenger to reach out to the school community through text and email.

Facility options range from renovations to the three current high schools, to four smaller, brand new high schools — and several other options in between. Discussions could lead to a concept that hasn't been identified yet, officials have said.

"We've collected a lot of data using the Thought Exchange model," Haworth said in an interview. "We're getting ready to go out on the club/civic circuit. So it's a very exciting time."

Haworth also updated the board on COVID-19 and the return to school in August. He said it's the district's goal "to get back to normal" for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

"It's the goal of the VCSC and the hope of the superintendent to have the least restrictive environment possible when school returns in August," he said.

The goal would be to open without masking, "but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves here," he said.

"Any decision regarding mitigation practices, such as masks, will be made later this summer, when we have the best information available to us," he said. "We will make all decisions for fall in collaboration with our local health care and public health leaders."

He also will recommend that any mandates from the state of Indiana be followed, and officials also must consider any federal mandates. "We continue to receive promising data regarding low spread among children," Haworth said.

At this time, vaccinated individuals don’t have to quarantine as a result of close contact, and hospitalization rates among vaccinated individuals are near zero, he said. "We continue to encourage all who are eligible to be vaccinated" in consultation with their health care provider.

The district will continue to encourage good hygiene and sanitation practices, including dedicating time for handwashing and sanitizer use.

"We will also continue to encourage distancing as much as our classrooms allow," he said. He noted that an "overwhelming majority" of students who were quarantined as a result of close contact did not become positive for COVID.

"We want normalcy to return and what can we do here locally to try to bring a normal start to our school year," he said. "Our teachers need it; our students need it; our parents need it."

He met with a group of manufacturers last week, and they asked for a return to a normal school day. They recognize the importance of school not only in academics, but also its role in child care, Haworth said.

In a separate matter, Haworth said he plans to present an updated strategic plan to the School Board in August. Many areas will be updated, and it's expected to address proposals for a "flex school," a new fabrication, innovation, technology and engineering [FITE] center and an International Residency program.

Enrollment will be an important part of the plan, Haworth said.

The updated plan also will address workforce development. "Is current instructional delivery meeting future needs, and where we need to make changes, our new facilities need to reflect those," he said.

It also will address improving pay for teachers and all staff.

During the work session, Covered Bridge Special Education District executive director Susan Cobb made a presentation on the interlocal special education planning district. Covered Bridge has moved to McLean Education Center, which is owned by the district; it formerly leased space at 1320 Walnut St.

The move is expected to save the Vigo County School Corp. more than $100,000 in lease/operational costs.

The school board also recognized the Vigo County Teachers Association/Vigo County School Corp. teachers of the year: Kathleen Aimone, who teaches at Otter Creek Middle School, and Christy Halls, who teaches at DeVaney Elementary.

The board also recognized Lindsay Wilhoyte, an educator at Vigo Virtual Success Academy, who is Edmentum's Virtual Teacher of the Year.

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