Anxiety levels remain high among Fort Wayne Community Schools employees as they and students adjust to an academic year during a pandemic, Superintendent Mark Daniel said Monday, noting the district has multiple COVID-19 cases.
“We are in a stressful time,” Daniel told the school board, citing FWCS and Fort Wayne Education Association survey results. “There's no doubt about that.”
Daniel's impromptu report followed less than 10 minutes of school board business, including approval of new daily rates for substitute teachers. Substitutes now will make a minimum of $110 per day, up from the previous minimum of $95.
The 30,000-student district, which began classes Aug. 13, has had two staff members test positive for the coronavirus and about a dozen student cases, Daniel said after the meeting.
FWCS is using seating charts – including during school board meetings – to help identify those who might have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
“That is critical,” Daniel said.
Daniel highlighted the nursing staff, which was bolstered this year by several new hires.
FWCS added eight nurses for a total of 40 school-based nurses along with 13 health aides, a relatively new position. The aides began helping high school nurses last year, and this year's expansion benefits nurses assigned to two schools, Mary Hess previously told the board. She is the school system's director of health and wellness.
“We're going to need it,” Hess said Aug. 10 of the extra staff. “We need to have people who understand the rules well in order to make good decisions.”
Meanwhile, educators are trying to cater to students attending classes in person and virtually.
FWCS will have a two-hour delay Wednesday for professional learning. Daniel described it as an opportunity for teachers to collaborate or ask about various topics, such as how to better engage students learning remotely.
“We want a truly remote program that is a level of excellence,” Daniel said. “It can't be mediocre, and it certainly can't be what we had last spring.”
Almost 35% of students – 10,025 to be exact – chose the remote learning option, spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.
Families have until Friday to switch to another learning format. Stabilizing the in-person and remote learning counts will help the district finalize teaching assignments, Daniel said.
It's possible the district will have to invest in more teachers, he added.
Daniel shared that teachers are working late into the night and some feel like they are working two jobs because they are teaching in-person and online classes.
“We have very tired people,” he said.