Fort Wayne Community Schools board members made the “very easy” decision Monday night to provide some certainty to employees while the coronavirus pandemic upends daily life: Paychecks will continue.
In a meeting closed to an in-person audience but televised on cable and livestreamed on YouTube, the six board members also learned how FWCS will provide learning opportunities while classrooms sit empty.
Public schools in Allen County have been closed since March 16. The four local districts initially planned to reopen in April, but Gov. Eric Holcomb last week ordered schools statewide to close until May 1.
The eight people in the FWCS board room kept their distance from each other Monday as the board completed its brief agenda.
Members unanimously endorsed a resolution authorizing Superintendent Wendy Robinson to carry out actions necessary for the safety and well-being of the FWCS community during the unprecedented school closure. This includes – but isn't limited to – authorizing continued paychecks.
Robinson commended the board for its support. Some FWCS employees work multiple jobs and have lost their other sources of income, she said.
“It was the right thing to do,” Robinson said.
Anne Duff, board secretary, called it an “easy decision.” Board President Julie Hollingsworth agreed, describing it as “very easy.”
Tom Smith, a board member, asked whether the budget can support continuing to pay staff.
“Yes,” Robinson said. “The short answer is yes.”
The superintendent also outlined FWCS' plans to prioritize learning opportunities during the closure. Unlike neighboring school districts, FWCS does not have e-learning.
For high school seniors, FWCS will focus on students needing credit in various classes in order to graduate; on those relying on unique courses that fit the state's graduation pathways; and on seniors – along with some juniors – earning credits through dual-credit, Advanced Placement, and career and technical education classes.
The curriculum department will provide learning activities for students in all other grade levels, and teachers will connect with students online or, for students without computers, by phone.
Brooke Sellhorn, who has three children in FWCS, appreciated the update.
“After watching the board meeting, it is a relief to know that there is some sort of a plan for ongoing academic support,” Sellhorn told The Journal Gazette by email. “The plan is still vague, but at least better than what they originally sent out.”
In other business, the board approved Robinson's retirement, effective June 30.
“You can breathe easier now,” Hollingsworth told Robinson.
“I can breathe easier when we get to normal again,” Robinson replied.
Glenna Jehl, a board member, thanked Robinson for her diligence and creativity in recent weeks.
“What a way to go out,” Jehl said, “to have to handle a major crisis like this is no easy thing.”