Southwest School Corporation prepares for the worst, hopes for the best amid COVID-19

It’s been the theme here in the Wabash Valley for the last week. School corporations like Southwest in Sullivan are welcoming students back to the classroom.

Posted: Aug 12, 2020 6:17 PM

SULLIVAN, Ind. (WTHI) - It’s been the theme here in the Wabash Valley for the last week. School corporations like Southwest in Sullivan are welcoming students back to the classroom. Superintendent of Southwest School Corporation Dr. Chris Stitzle spoke to News 10 about how he feels about the plans they have in place and how students and teachers felt about being back in school.

Southwest School Corporation welcomed students back on Tuesday, August 11th, and Dr. Stitzle says they are off to a great start. He says students and teachers were excited to be back and everyone was following the proper guidelines.

Stitzle says they feel good about the options they’ve offered to students for this school year. He’s under no illusion that this year will go uninterrupted, but says it will take a village to make it go as smoothly as possible.

“I’m optimistic but I’m also realistic that we are probably going to have some shutdowns here and there. I think the real key is just everybody has to have some patience, flexibility, and we all have to cooperate together,” Stitzle said, “It’s going to be the most difficult year we’ve ever had in education, but I think if we work together we can make the year a success. That’s what I’ve been trying to say to the staff, community and parents. It won’t be easy but I think we can do it.”

Danyel Hall is a parent of two children in the Southwest School Corporation. While having some concerns, she did plan to send her children back to school this fall. She even took her youngest to her kindergarten open house, but at the last minute, she changed her mind.

“I was comfortable with the school’s plan. I know that they were going to keep the kids safe,” Hall explained, “It was just—I’ve been hearing about a lot of high schoolers and junior high students who are coming down with the virus. Before, you didn’t hear of many young kids getting the virus. So that just helped my decision because these young kids are getting it and I don’t want my young kids to get sick.”

Her kids will complete virtual schooling, and Hall can reassess the move after nine weeks. It’s a decision, though, that didn’t come without a personal sacrifice for her. Previously a cafeteria worker at the elementary school in Sullivan, she decided to quit her job in order to stay home with her kids.

“It was a very hard decision. I mean every family needs that extra income but to me, my kids’ health comes before any job,” Hall said.

Superintendent Stitzle says he has a COVID-19 playbook but knows every situation is different and says they will lean heavily on the local health department for guidance. Both he and Hall say they’ll play the next few months by ear, but in-person learning is still certainly important.

“We do need to offer some in-person school,” Stitzle said, “I think the kids really need it but the teachers really need it to. I could see the excitement in their faces yesterday welcoming the kids back in the building.”

“I really want my kids to go to school,” Hall concludes, “My kids need the social interaction with other children. If in nine weeks the cases are slowing down then I will send them back.”

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