Indiana High School sign 2016-001

In a two-step process, the Indiana Area school board this week will consider revisions to the back-to-school reopening plan that was adopted July 27 — but was toppled Aug. 10 when Gov. Tom Wolf recommended against face-to-face instruction at Indiana and hundreds of other school districts in areas showing increases in COVID-19 diagnosis rates.

The district’s new game plan will be up for discussion at a committee meeting this evening and for a vote of the school board Tuesday.

“The administration has been struggling to comply with the Aug. 10 order … and we’re desperately trying to figure out how best to educate these kids,” Committee Chairman Thomas Harley said. “So the original plan has to be modified and there are at least one or two serious options that will be discussed tonight. We’re getting into the fine details of how to keep kids separated and mask-wearing and keep kids safe and educated.”

Indiana’s plan, “Informed Learning Options for Reopening,” offered three main choices: in school every day, a split between classroom and simultaneous online lessons or a curriculum of digital courses in Indiana’s IDEAL or other cyber schools.

In the wake of the guidance that Wolf said he offered in response to requests from educators statewide, Indiana’s administration retreated from the 100 percent, brick-and-mortar offering at a regular board meeting only hours after Wolf’s announcement.

The revision to the “Informed Learning Options” leads the agenda for an Academic & Extracurricular Committee meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today, with board members set to look at building-specific details, the impact on IDEAL and virtual classroom learning and any costs connected with the changes.

“I think where we’re heading as a district is to get some stability,” Harley said. “My encouragement will be that the committee will adopt something and hold it for a period of time so parents can make day care arrangements … and not go week to week. The chaos in that is just too much.”

The plan that emerges from the committee session is set as the only matter for the school board’s vote at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Both meetings will be held online, which has remained the district’s choice for compliance with the state’s ban on indoor gatherings of more than 25 people.

While the learning options plan — dated July 29 — is up for revision, the district continues to abide by its Health and Safety Plan of July 28 and the Athletics Health and Safety Plan revised Aug. 3 as the guidelines for school district operation during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Out intention is for us to hopefully adopt something and stick with it and stop this being pushed around by these different demands,” Harley said. “And the parents have to be feeling the same way … about the unknown of what’s going on.”

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the county courthouse; Indiana Area and Homer-Center schools; Blairsville, Homer City, Clymer, Center and Burrell; and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.