Ball State University and its appointed school board are not planning on seeking an extension on a June 2020 deadline to present a new strategic plan for Muncie Community Schools.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak preventing some of the meetings to gather opinions for community members and school employees, the plan is to still proceed towards the deadline as close to normally as possible.
This is the first full year of Muncie Community Schools being under the control of Ball State University. The university is required by law to present a new strategic plan outlining its progress and vision for the school district this June.
The COVID-19 outbreak has altered many of the plans at both Ball State and MCS. With students now working from home for the rest of the school year and all non-essential university employees at home, many of the planned meetings between the university and community are canceled.
“The impact it might have is on our ability to have meetings with the public to review the draft of the plan,” Ball State University President Geoffrey Mearns said. “We had last spring and summer there were more than 20 public sessions where teachers, staff, administrators, parents and community members could come to these sessions and share their ideas. We had intended to have a similar process this spring where we shared with the community the current draft and got people’s input on that draft. We intended to have some public sessions and of course now that will not be possible.”
Local leaders say they are not aware of how these cancellations will affect the process of presenting the final plan.
“The coronavirus social distancing has limited the gatherings that were planned to get community input into the plan,” said State Rep. Sue Errington. “In fact, some are wondering if Ball State will request a delayed deadline for submitting the plan.”
The university has not asked for a change to the June deadline.
“There are no plans to seek an extension,” Mearns said.
Local leaders have been left to speculate on what may be a part of the final plan due to these cancelled meetings
“I hope there is a plan to retain and attract excellent teachers,” Errington said. “This would need to include pay raises, remediation for low-performing students, teacher and staff professional development, giving teachers greater freedom from high stakes testing in order to use more creative methods, and expansion of pre-K. I’d also like to see that they are using mitigation strategies such as energy efficiency and renewable energy such as solar in their building remodeling plans.”
Errington says other priorities include putting a timeframe in place for returning MCS to a community-elected school board and returning bargaining rights to teachers.
“We begin with the notion of providing support for the teachers in the classrooms,” Mearns said. “There is no substitute for high quality, high performing teachers and we have to find the resources and the mechanisms to support the teachers in the classrooms.”
Mearns also stressed that continuing community involvement to support students outside of the classroom would be an important piece of the upcoming strategic plan.