Review: A look back on The Learning Curve

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Our Learning Curve series is just beginning, but our team has learned so much already.

But what is the learning curve?

Well, it's an in-depth education series that covers a wide range of topics at dozens of schools around Michiana.

Everything from substitute shortages to how districts are keeping schools clean enough for kids to return to learning in-person. And we just wanted to give you an overall look at some of the most important stories we have covered over the last few months.

Our learning curve series has taken us all over Michiana. Showing how different districts are opening back up after months of closure.

From schools reopening fully in-person like Knox...

"We’re on our way to the high school I’ll be a senior this year. I’d rather gon to school and learn honestly I learn better that way," Gunner Wagner, one Knox senior said.

To Walkerton opening up virtually...

"We'll start a nine, a 9 am kind of attendance check. And then we have three virtual meets throughout the day to kind of do our lessons," Taylor Kalucki, a 3rd-grade teacher at Walkerton Elementary said.

And a school district like New Prairie, doing both.

"We have classes around 25 to 28. Now with the 50%, you know, usually around 13 or 14 per day per hour," Mark Schellinger, New Prairie High School history teacher said.

We went across the state line to Three Oaks Michigan...

“If I had the option I feel like I would come back to school only because I do miss seeing my friends face to face," Elizabeth Lumley, a River Valley 10th-grader said.

And learned about St. Joseph’s plan to ease students in.

"Our first week has four days. So we're doing 25% of the students each day," Dr. Tom Bruce, St. Joseph Public Schools Superintendent said.

We found out that there’s a major substitute shortage across both Indiana and Michigan.

"We have a substitute in our building probably 80% of the time," Joe eastside principal

"We've had days where we've had anywhere between six to eight spots unfilled, typically that that's high for us," Dr. Dan Applegate, the Niles Schools superintendent said.

Causing some schools to shut down completely.

"So we have some teachers that are falling ill, they've got family members that might be ill, and we have a lot of students that are close contacts," Shelby Beasley, the principal at Buchanan Middle School said. "So we are going remote now until December 7 is when we will return to school.”

And we learned about budgetary issues schools are tackling trying to keep students safe.

"For the fall semester, you know, we're probably in the neighborhood of 400,000," Tracy Hertsel, the Director of Student Support Services for Niles Schools said.

"Our budget has changed significantly because of the additional expenditures that we’re incurring and in order to prepare for COVID and make sure that we’re staying safe," Anne Flautt, the Chief Financial Officer at 

We followed two nurses around...

"We just have to look at those things differently now, because the covid symptoms are so, so broad," Wendy said.

"We don't see the same symptoms, as you see, in adults. Sometimes they are, but they're usually much more mild. You see a lot of, you know, just general symptoms. I've got a headache and I've got a tummy ache. I've got a sore throat. You know, this time of year, there's so many things that are going around that could be strep throat, it could be, you know, the common cold," Kelly Howard, a Baugo Community Schools nurse said.

And saw a student actually go into quarantine...

"So what we're gonna do, we're gonna take you to the isolation room until mom gets here. Okay kiddo you ready come on. The door on the right," Wendy said.

We profiled maintenance workers...

“A lot is different with cleaning this year," Leslie Conyers, St. Mary's principal said.

"Biggest thing in the morning time, we go through and do a lot of the doors wiping doors like this all gets wiped down. Anything that the kids can touch is what we go and do. Rails on stairways," Mike Garland, the Building Maintenance Director for Culver Community Schools said.

And followed the money...

"It cost about $3 and 81 cents a month," Jim White, the Bremen Schools Superintendent said. “I estimate the cost of two mental health therapists, a nurse and another counselor to be around 280, depending upon who I hire”

"We are the lowest in the state as far as school tax rates.” 5:33 “so, so we would, at the end of this process with a yes vote be at 70 cents. And so we would still be 20 cents below. Really, those the lower two to compare with us," Tom Edington, Wawasee Community Schools Superintendent said.

We even spoke about special education...

“If you throw off their routine like it could be, it could be very hard for them to recoup or get back to where they need to be," Jennifer Fletcher, the Applied Skills Teacher at Knox Elementary said. 

"It can be difficult with some students, because they like to be close, or they like to give a hug. And you just you do your best to kind of accommodate that in different ways," Alyssa Thayer, the ED (Emotional Disabilities) Resource Room teacher said.

And how colleges are trying to keep enrollment numbers up.

“We set a target for ourselves kind of knowing the covid landscape. And we actually exceeded that target. So we came in at 4942 students. And that's just a couple of percentage points down from last year," Susan Elrod, the IUSB Chancellor said.

But perhaps the best stories we found amidst this pandemic were moments of happiness and hope.

“Our goal is just to make them happy, healthy and independent adults and love them along the way," Fletcher said.

“I don’t think that fear is necessarily a good thing to do you have to be cautious but you can't walk around life fearful of everything," Devan Wallen a parent of a Knox student said. 

All to give you the most extensive education coverage across Michiana.

"Parents and guardians trust us with their most precious gifts. So we have to make sure that we are taking our best care of them," Conyers said.

Our Learning Curve coverage continues after the holidays, but we need your help and ideas!

If you have a story something special to share from your child’s classroom, email us at learningcurve@abc57.com and we’ll try and do the story.

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