Administration creates plan for ISTEP+ administration, finalizes second semester details amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic


Associate Principal Karen McDaniel smiles from her desk on Nov. 16. McDaniel said that administration’s priority is to make sure that the school continues to be a safe environment for students during the COVID-19 pandemic so that some in-person instruction can remain in place.

Rhea Acharya

Associate Principal Karen McDaniel said administration right now is continuing to focus on fine-tuning this school’s plans for second semester, including establishing a way for juniors to take the state-mandated ISTEP+ testing that they were not able to complete this past spring due to COVID-19.

The current plan, McDaniels said, is for the ISTEP+ testing to take place on Feb. 5 and Feb. 10 in 2021. On those days, all juniors—whether under hybrid or all-virtual learning plans—will be required to come in for the whole school day to take the tests. She said all other students will use those days as additional virtual school days. McDaniels said by having only juniors come in on those two days, they will be able to take advantage of smaller testing environments, and it will be easier to social distance in response to COVID-19 concerns.

McDaniel said,  “The state does not allow assessments to be done virtually. (ISTEP+ testing) has to be done in-person on the school campus. One thing to keep in mind is that we are bringing in virtual students who have not been used to coming in and being part of a building setting, and we want to respect their safety concerns. But for our hybrid learners, if we didn’t designate two specific days in our calendar for juniors to take (ISTEP+) tests, then every time juniors had an in-person day for almost a month they would be doing nothing in their English and math classes expect taking (ISTEP+) tests. And we just thought that that didn’t make sense and wasn’t a good use of our in-person instructional time.”

In addition to ISTEP+ tests, McDaniel said administration is also solidifying more general plans for second semester. Recently, she said administration sent out a detailed schedule to parents and staff members detailing which days the Carmel and Greyhound Cohorts will be coming into the school for students on the hybrid learning plan. McDaniel said that for the most part, administration tried to keep the schedule as similar to the first semester schedule as possible, including making sure that the semester starts off with a Carmel Cohort in-person day again.

McDaniel said, “Consistency is key. Our families and our students and our teachers are just kind of now getting into the groove. We did not want to disrupt that by throwing something completely different at anyone.”

Briana Chen, Science Olympiad officer and senior, said it is good that administration is planning ahead for what the school day will look like next semester with the ongoing pandemic. She said she thinks club leaders are also cognizant of the risks associated with COVID-19, especially during the wintertime, and are taking steps to limit close indoor gatherings as much as possible. For Science Olympiad, she said the officers have signed the team up for mainly at-home competitions, where members can compete in events from home as long as they have access to a computer.

Chen said, “Obviously, if COVID-19 gets worse, we will cancel a lot of our in-person meetings. As we get into the winter, we are planning to be more diligent about contact tracing and making people social distance by having people spread out across classrooms. But we really make sure that everyone is wearing masks because we think that will help prevent the spread the most as well as just being emphatic about social distancing.”

Ultimately, McDaniel said, “I hope what everyone keeps in mind for this school year is that we can’t use COVID-19 as an excuse not to do something. We have to use it as a way to reimagine what we can do.”