The Indiana School for the Deaf (ISD) is a fully accredited school serving for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students from 18 months old through high school. The Indiana School for the Deaf is accredited by AdvancED Indiana and the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD). It provides services to approximately 330 students enrolled on campus. About 30% of the students live on campus during the academic year. ISD offers a full range of social activities, including sports, clubs, and organizations.
Prior to March 2020
The school functioned well during the year, just completing the CEASD accreditation visit team and was recommended for the 5-year full accreditation. The school did not provide any online courses, but students were offered the option of taking online courses through the Indiana Online Academy. The school connected a lot to the parents by sending messages through the Skyward (Student Information System) as well as the school website and school’s social media accounts. This year, ISD has communicated a lot with the families prior and during the CEASD accreditation. Regarding other stakeholders, communication took place through the ISD website and social media accounts.
During March-June 2020
The process was a quick one – the school communicated with the staff, students, and families a few days prior to full closure as it coincided with the Indianapolis Public Schools and schools within the Marion County and surrounding counties. The shift from brick and mortar learning environment to the continuous learning (eLearning) was arranged through brief training the day prior to online learning with orientation to the Zoom training and others arranged by the Educational Technology Specialist and principals.
Communication was made to the parents through the use of Skyward, Schoology and Seesaw with teachers guiding the process, involving students and parents every day for the first 2 weeks. The support staff, including the school social worker, speech/language pathologists, and others, assisted in communicating with the parents.
Regarding the community, there were, and still are, vlogs posted in the school website as well as the INDY500 newsletter run by the Indiana Association of the Deaf. The ASL specialists, along with other Deaf persons, were involved in the process of creating scripts and doing the vlogs in the studio off-site owned by the father of an ISD graduate, as well as the ISD TV studio.
How the School Rose to the Challenge
This was a major change that seemed to happen overnight. The students were sent home quickly without materials and some without their iPads. How do we get the students the educational items needed for e-learning? ISD’s wonderful staff members stepped up to the plate and began distributing iPads and materials to students all over Indiana. Videos were made of staff giving students their items and each student expressed their gratitude. Educational staff (teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff) made videos that were placed on social media so ISD students could feel the support of our staff.
The next challenge will be collecting materials and iPads to prepare them for the next school year. ISD will host a Drop Off/Pick Up Drive Thru so students can drop off their iPads, materials and pick up their personal belongings left at ISD. For those students that will not be able to drop off/pick up, ISD’s wonderful staff will hit the road once again.
Where the School is Now
ISD’s last day of eLearning with students was May 21st and the teachers are continuing to wrap-up the school year. ISD Administrators will be meeting with staff to debrief on how we did as a school and community. ISD needs to look at our process with eLearning, meeting the needs of students and staff, and areas of improvement for next Fall. What does our canvas look like for the 2020-21 school year? The Governor of Indiana will share the Educational Plan for our state on July 1st. At that time, administrators and staff will roll up their sleeves and begin the preparation stage for the school year.
Lessons Learned: Not all students have the privilege of dependable internet service either in their home or due to being in a rural area. ISD has surveyed parents on their technology needs and plans to purchase “hotspots” to better serve our students in need of internet. At the beginning of the pandemic and eLearning, ISD went all in and started with e-learning five days a week. ISD quickly evaluated e-learning and revised the plan to have eLearning three days a week. ISD also added into the plan face-to-face time between students and staff. Each teacher was required to host one classroom zoom with all of the students in the class. ISD also realized that not all teachers and students have the same technological skills and will need more training.
Since ISD is a residential school, we must look at all aspects: can students feasibly social distance in the dorms? Can we properly sanitize our furniture, restrooms, etc. as will be stated by the CDC? ISD will need to consider the possibility of staggering mealtimes and be able to stay 6 feet apart. As soon as Indiana’s Governor shares the plan for schools reopening, ISD will have a better idea of what will be required to safely open 2020-2021 academic year.
Superintendent: David Geeslin, Ed.D.