Dear VCS Community,
The events and conversations over these months of living in a pandemic environment should leave little doubt as to how critical public schools are to the Valparaiso community. Schools are often at the foundation of family life each day. Once upon a time, the primary function of school was to offer an academic experience. Over the years, our schools have evolved into so much more. Public schools are a source of critical services for students and families in addition to offering opportunities for academic excellence. Public schools provide meal programs, health interventions, social, behavioral, recreational, and mental health assistance to name just a few of the critical services for students and families. School closure interferes with the delivery of these important services and hinders the development of both peer and student-teacher relationships.
When schools are prepared for occupancy, it is important they be open and available for in-person learning and for critical services to be effectively delivered. With the support of the Porter County Department of Health, and through the implementation of the VCS Return to Learn Plan, our schools are prepared for occupancy. On Wednesday, August 12 the Valparaiso Community Schools will reopen in Green Status, and staff will welcome students for in-person learning and participation in critical services. Those families who choose the remote learning option will be welcomed as well.
Understand, reopening school and returning to classrooms and critical services in a COVID-19 environment will require discipline and strict attention to the protocols defined in the VCS Return to Learn Plan as well as to individual school plans designed by principals and staff. Keeping schools safe and open will depend on the behaviors and use of protocols by people in the entire community. The African Proverb “It takes the whole village to raise the child” is very relevant in the reopening of school. Since schools have been closed,the incidence of COVID-19 reported by the Porter County Department of Health has originated outside of the school walls, with most cases tracked to the absence of protocols, including not wearing masks and unacceptable physical distancing. We will be able to keep school safe and open only if the entire community, in and out of the schoolhouse, regularly deploys these safety protocols.
The decision to open schools and offer learning in-person is made with educational as well as professional health input. Professionals representing the Valparaiso Community Schools and the Porter County Health Department have collaborated regularly over these months, resulting in data and information supporting the return to learning. As one example of this collaboration, please reference the attached document from Dr. Maria Stamp, Porter County Health Officer.
The reality is, we will most likely have cases of COVID-19 occur in our schools. School personnel will work quickly to identify impacted people and deploy actions including quarantine and remote learning. Some extracurricular and other activities may need to be paused from time to time to address exposure. A class, school, and even the district may need to close in order to mitigate COVID-19 transmission. Remote learning may be required of some or many students should the Department of Health determine it necessary. We can increase the probability of keeping our schools open for learning and keeping one another healthy and safe when we all deploy the actions in the Return to Learn Plan and adhere to the advice of the Health Department.
Public education and public health are both critical to our community and interdependent upon each other. COVID-19 has impacted the schools we love and the health we cherish. In response, our schools can assist in teaching new habits such as wearing a mask, physical distancing, and keeping our hands clean to make a positive difference in ending this virus. The success of keeping our schools open for learning and critical services is dependent on all of our actions.
Michael J. Berta Jr.
Interim Superintendent of Schools