All 48 schools in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Indiana District have opened the 2020-2021 academic year with classes on campus. Schools currently offer a mix of in-person and online instruction in response to COVID-19 guidelines and parent needs. The District serves 105 counties, including all of Indiana and much of Northern Kentucky. Each school operated under a unique reopening plan written in conformity with local Health Department protocol.
According to Dr. Kevin Brockberg, Superintendent of Lutheran Schools of Indiana, the District relied heavily on administrators at the local level when discerning and implementing pandemic-related changes. “The input and active work of our school principals and board members at all forty-eight K-12 schools was essential to the three imperatives: Safeguarding the health of students and staff; addressing state learning standards; and continuing the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus,” said Dr. Brockberg.
Each principal collaborated with their school’s local Health Department to create acceptable policy in response to the pandemic. Plans attended to virus-related health concerns while still serving the spiritual, academic, and social/emotional needs of each student. The concerns, academic needs, and physical well-being of all stakeholders were taken into account. The district-wide school reopening was no small task and involved the flexibility and hard work of principals, teachers, staff, volunteers, students, and their families.
Owing to active collaboration at many levels, day one of the reopening was a reassuring success. Students endured the changes well, including an all-day mask mandate (with the exception of lunch), social distancing of 36 square feet, divided class sections and reduced movement between classes. Dr. Brockberg shared that while all have done an amazing job of supporting the Lutheran schools’ mission during the pandemic, academic life is transformed.
When students do move from place to place, they maintain social distancing protocols and follow a predetermined route. Most students, even at the high school level, are not changing classes for the time being. Instead, teachers move from room to room with a cart for a quasi-mobile teaching model. Teachers also videotape their lectures via synchronous (real-time) or asynchronous (delayed) technology. Whether schools will remain hybrid, go completely online, or return to the traditional model is an ongoing discussion. The decision to make further changes would occur at the local level and may depend on factors including county health requirements, family needs, and the availability of internet.
“God is indeed present in these plans and initiatives. Laments from the book of Psalms bolster the spirit behind the return to school. Thanks goes to our teachers and local administrators who fulfill the Lutheran mission every day despite near-constant changes. In addition to their existing responsibilities, our school principals suddenly found themselves tasked with becoming the vanguards of school health. Our teachers go into classrooms everyday risking exposure just like healthcare workers do. They have found the strength during this difficult time to put the best construction on everything, and to keep our schools thriving.”