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No community member attends night one of South Bend Schools' Listening Tour

NOW: No community member attends night one of South Bend Schools’ Listening Tour

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) is looking to the public for input on its plans for the upcoming school year. Tuesday night was supposed to be the first of five nights of what district leaders are calling a "listening tour" during which the public speaks directly to district leaders to help them make the final tweaks to the plan for the school year, but night one did not go according to plan as no one from the community showed up. District leaders said that won't hinder the plan to get kids back to school by August 12th.

"These tours were added just to make sure we are touching every single family and meeting people where they are and giving them diverse options in terms of getting that information to us, but there is a link online to fill out forms," said SBCSC Chief Financial Officer Kareemah Fowler. "There have been several different platforms to get the information to the schools about their thoughts on re-entry."

Fowler said the public was given 24 hours’ notice of Tuesday night's meeting. She also said continuously changing guidelines from health officials are making the re-opening plan a fluid one.

"As we're coming up with things, there are other things that are constantly rolling out, and so, everyday we're taking our plan, and we are looking at that plan up against the CDC guidelines and the Pediatric Health guidelines every single day," Fowler said.

The district has four more meetings planned this week for the Listening Tour. Educators, like Elkhart Teacher Jennifer Kemble, said when the public does not give its input, public school districts struggle to put a cohesive plan together.

"I think it makes a collaborative decision very hard because it's not getting the voices of the community," Kemble said. "It's not getting all of the teachers' input, and it's not getting maybe the school board's input. We need as much input as possible to come to a decision that is beneficial for everybody. So, everybody's voices need to be heard."

South Bend Schools' parents like Cesar Arriaga, said the school district will need to figure out how to care for a sick child of a single working parent.

"That's pretty hard," Arriaga said. "That's a hard one right there because parents have to go to work, and when their child gets sick, that means daycare won't take them, and the parent has to stay home."

Even though no one from the public came to Tuesday night's meeting, SBCSC CFO Kareemah Fowler said the district is still getting input from community members.

"We have been getting information from the public since day one," Fowler said. "We added this as an extra piece. So, this is just an extra piece to get out and meet people where they are."

Fowler said the community has been weighing in via online surveys and Facebook Live conversations with Superintendent Todd Cummings. The district does hope for a better turnout at the next stop on the Listening Tour and said it might come back to the Charles Black Center again, where Tuesday night's meeting was supposed to be.

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