Greencastle-Antrim schools start 2021 with COVID-19 adjustments

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot
All Greencastle-Antrim Schools will be open four days a week beginning later this month.

Learning is virtual for all students this week and families are being asked to self-isolate through Sunday, Jan. 10, as the Greencastle-Antrim School District begins 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district wants to avoid the 60 to 80 COVID-19 exposures reported at each building after the Thanksgiving holiday.

More:Greencastle-Antrim High School closed until January, COVID contact reported at elementary

More:Greencastle-Antrim Middle School going virtual after 'rapid increase' in COVID-19 cases

"We are asking, begging really, that our school families help us control any post-holiday outbreaks by refraining from unnecessary gatherings during January 1st through 10th," Dr. Lura Hanks, superintendent, said in a pre-holiday video message.

New Year's Eve was the last big holiday and Hanks asked families keep to themselves after that date, monitor for symptoms and report any positive cases or exposures to the district's COVID-19 hotline.

"We believe that these efforts will result in a more successful return to learning for all students," Hanks wrote in a letter to families on New Year's Day. "Thank you for working with us so that we can continue to forge ahead with confidence and pride in our community approach to doing what is best for our children ... Let’s move forward with caution and optimism. 2021 is sure to be a fantastic year for our Greencastle-Antrim community as we continue to focus on what matters most in our mission to prepare students for their future – as unpredictable and extraordinary as it is sure to be!"

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade will return to school buildings on Monday, Jan. 11. High-schoolers, who have not been in school in person since Nov. 9, will return to their classrooms as the second semester begins on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

More time in school

High school students will see a significant schedule change and middle school students also will be impacted by the shift.

The three priorities in place since the district's COVID-19 health and safety plan was created last summer continue to guide decision-making, Hanks said. The priorities are health and safety of students and staff; teaching and learning; and social and emotional health of students, staff and families.

Teaching and learning at the high school were strained by the hybrid schedule in place since the beginning of the year. Prior to going all-virtual in November, half of the high school students were in school Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half were in school Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays were virtual for students across the district.

The two-day, in-person schedule created challenges for students and teachers and all-virtual worked well for some students, but not for others, Dr. Ed Rife, high school principal, said in a video message to families.

Hanks said since the high school went all-online more students are struggling or have failing grades. Tutoring and other help is available, but the problem needs to be addressed long-term.

The new schedule will have high-schoolers learning in-person Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings and online those afternoons.

It will provide 200 more minutes of in-person learning a week, according to Rife, who expanded that to 3,600 additional minutes or 60 more hours for the the semester.

Middle school students also will switch to the half-day schedule on Jan. 19, with their core classes being held in-person in the morning.

Secondary students will head home late morning and return to school virtually in the afternoon.

Students at the elementary and primary schools will continue in-person classes Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and, like the rest of the district, will be virtual on Wednesday.

To see Hanks' message, go to: https://youtu.be/Zi9b-p6ihUI