For many of the 1,269 students at Central Nine Career Center, trips to the Greenwood vocational school are the only constant in their educational lives right now.
Despite the differences in the way schools are approaching learning this semester due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Central Nine has brought back all students for in-person instruction.
Central Nine serves nine school districts in Johnson and Marion counties. About half of those districts are following a hybrid model, with students learning in-person some days and online others. Students in all four Marion County districts the school serves are following that model, and locally, Franklin Community Schools is on a hybrid schedule. Just Center Grove, Greenwood and Indian Creek schools have Central Nine students who are also attending their home schools everyday.
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Central Nine is doing its part to make sure all of them are learning in person, sending school buses to transport students even if their time at Central Nine is their only in-person learning opportunity of the day, said William Kovach, Central Nine Career Center director.
“We were able to go 100% in-person no matter what the other school schedules were. They set up bus routes that allowed them to come here every day, and honestly, not one of the schools on a hybrid system is on the same hybrid schedule,” Kovach said. “A bus driver on Monday might be going to a group of students’ houses, and on Tuesday another groups’ houses. Sometimes, we go to a school to pick students up, or drop students off at their home after a session. A lot of logistics have to be worked out.”
At Central Nine, it is crucial that students attend in person, considering the career center’s hands-on approach to learning in areas such as criminal justice, health sciences, construction and manufacturing. Juniors and seniors interested in the offerings at Central Nine spend half days learning at the career center, with the other half of the day dedicated to learning at their home high schools.
As is the case with other schools, anytime students can’t be six feet apart, they are required to wear masks, which applies to hallways and some classrooms.
The pandemic has presented challenges for Mark Rund, who teaches athletic training and exercise science. But he is finding ways to navigate those obstacles, including finding his students internship opportunities even though health care facilities have restrictions, he said.
“I am in health care and my class has an internship and job shadow component,” Rund said. “I started this summer trying to find spots, but it’s been challenging. All our students are now out on internships and job shadow. Those places are doing the same things with protocols to keep the patients safe and the facilities safe. There are a few extra roadblocks, but this year is off to a good start, and I’m trying to be positive and adapt with a goal to create the best experience for students to learn as much as possible.”
Students in Rund’s class found internships with their home high schools’ athletic trainers, and some are at Camp Atterbury, shadowing physicals for military personnel, including height-weight measurements and blood draws. Others have internships at CrossFit gyms, as well as physical therapy and chiropractor clinics, he said.
Another challenge this school year is coronavirus-related absences. Three Central Nine students have been diagnosed with COVID-19, requiring them to stay home for at least 10 days. A far greater number — 172 students — have had to quarantine for two weeks due to exposure to someone with the virus, meaning they were within six feet of someone with COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes, Kovach said.
Students use Canvas, an online platform for virtual learning, while they are in quarantine, he said.
“Our teachers have done a really good job of providing opportunities for students to access Canvas and put as much on there as we can so students can keep up,” Kovach said. “There are some things they can’t accomplish from home, but every program has an application side of things and a theory side of things. Every class has textbook-type work to do, so they could take a test from home or do research from home.”
Although Kerria Carter hasn’t been able to have her usual guest speakers address students in her criminal justice class, other aspects of the class have continued as usual, she said.
“We still go outside and do handcuffing and other hands-on activities. We still do training exercises three days per week. They have to keep their masks on unless they are six feet apart outside,” Carter said.
Students in the criminal justice class also practice defensive tactics, building clearing, foot pursuits and traffic stops. Having in-person classes makes learning the drills less challenging. In the spring, at the onset of the pandemic when schools were forced to close, students had to watch video demonstrations on Canvas and discuss what they saw instead of practicing it themselves, she said.
“It was very hard doing that online,” Carter said.