Onsite learning plan - 2020-21

Our mission is continuity of learning for all our children, meeting the needs and preferences of our Giants and their families, whether that is at home learning through our Giant Online Academy, or on campus learning in our school buildings.

The health and safety of our community is our top priority, and important changes will be required for the school year ahead. Flexibility, innovation, and cooperation will be more crucial than ever. 

With guidance from the Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana Department of Education, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, as well as local and national health officials, we will have measures in place that aim to limit the spread of COVID-19. Together, we will proactively plan, be alert, and respond appropriately to best meet the needs of our students, families, schools and community.

>> Reminder: The Giant Online Academy is open to any MCS family with students in K-12. Please explore our information on that program to determine the right choice for your family. Click here for Giant Online Academy information. 

Below is an overview of our plans for onsite learning in the 2020-21 school year at Marion Community Schools. Please note that these plans will be changed as needed to align with local, state, and national health and safety guidelines. Updates will be provided on our website and communicated to families.

School calendar / schedule

  • First student day: 
    • Grades K-12: Aug. 5
    • Preschool Aug. 10 (orientation Aug 4-7; families will be sent a packet the week of July 20)
  • Early dismissal Aug. 5-7 (to enable us to review and make any needed adjustments to the execution of our health and safety plans)
    • Grades K-4, 1:30 p.m. dismissal 
    • Grades 5-12, 2:45 p.m. dismissal 
  • Scheduled e-learning days (students will not come to school buildings; they will be assigned work to complete at home with school iPads and other provided materials as needed; this enables practice for any needed closures, when e-learning will be used)
    • Starting Aug. 14, every Friday in the first semester (which ends Dec. 18) will be a scheduled e-learning day. Click here for more information. UPDATE: On Nov. 24, the School Board approved Friday e-learning days to continue for the rest of the school year.
    • March 12 (last day of grading period)
  • The rest of the school year calendar remains unchanged at this time. You can view the full calendar here
  • Students will attend school on campus four days a week through the first semester; Fridays will be e-learning days. Second semester plans will be announced at a later date. The school day start and end times remain the same, except for preschool which has been modified slightly:
    • Preschool: morning classes 7:45 to 10:35 a.m.; afternoon classes 11:25 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.; full-day classes: 7:45 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.  
    • Grades K-4: Doors open at 7:20; classes run 7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.
    • Grades 5-6: 
      • M-Th: Doors open at 8:35 a.m.; classes run 8:50 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
      • NO SCHOOL on Fridays first semester, but typically on Fridays: Doors open at 8:50 a.m.; classes run 9:05 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
    • Grades 7-8: 
      • M-Th: Doors open at 8:30 a.m.; classes run 8:50 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
      • NO SCHOOL on Fridays first semester, but typically on Fridays: : Doors open at 8:45 a.m.; classes run 9:05 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
    • Grades 9-12: 
      • M-Th: Doors open at 8:30 a.m.; classes run 8:45 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. 
      • NO SCHOOL on Fridays first semester, but typically on Fridays: : Doors open at 8:30 a.m.; classes run 9 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.
    • PLEASE NOTE: Students will not be allowed into the building before the building opening times stated above. Walkers and car-riders should not arrive at the building early unless they are prepared to wait outside and safely distance themselves from others.
  • Attendance will be taken, but there will be no attendance awards; it is very important that students don’t come to school sick!
  • Block scheduling (four periods a day; classes meet every other day except for 7th period, which will meet every day as a home room or advisory period) will be used in grades 5 through 12 to reduce passing periods.
  • It is possible that temporary closures of a single building or the entire district will be necessary. It is possible that specific individuals will be instructed to quarantine due to possible exposure. We will work closely with local and state health officials to determine when a closure or quarantining is necessary, and for how long, in accordance with current CDC and ISDH guidelines. In the event of a temporary quarantine or closure (or in the case of longer-term school shutdown), we will utilize our at-home Giant Online Academy (e-learning) for all students affected.

Health and safety for students and staff

  • Masks / face coverings are required at school for staff and students in school by order of Gov. Eric Holcomb (announced 7/22). All bus riders are required to wear masks. There will be situations in a school where masks are required for all students (such as inside a nurse's clinic, and anywhere that social distancing is not possible). Masks are required by the governor's order for third grade and above, but we are still strongly recommending for grades 2 and below. There can be exceptions as dictated by IEP/504. We expect all staff and students to have a mask with them at all times. We are working to provide every student and staffer with at least one mask, but we also encourage you to help ensure your student has a mask every day.
  • Hand washing / sanitizing will be expected, especially at the following times:
    • start of the school day
    • before and after eating
    • after using the restroom
    • after blowing nose, coughing or sneezing
    • before and after using shared equipment
    • Hand sanitizer will be provided in classrooms, cafeterias, and hallways.
  • Staff will receive professional development training on recognizing COVID-19 symptoms, healthy hygiene protocols, and cleaning protocols.
  • We will continuously provide needed training and supplies necessary for regular disinfecting of high touch surfaces and equipment.
  • We will avoid shared equipment and materials as much as possible, and any such items will be disinfected between uses.
  • We will utilize social distancing practices as much as possible. 
    • Due to the size of our student body and our facilities, distancing will not be possible at all times.
    • Classrooms will be spaced out as much as a specific room / facility allows.
    • Desks will all face the same direction when possible.
    • All seating will be assigned.
    • We will utilize one-way traffic in hallways when possible.
    • Floor / wall markings and staff oversight / instructions will encourage students to keep space between them when waiting or walking in lines. 
    • Outside spaces will be used when possible.
  • We will use cohorting / bubbling to keep student and staff groupings as static as possible. 
    • At the elementary level, as much as possible, students will stay within their classrooms for instruction time, and specials teachers and interventionists will rotate into classrooms, rather than students switching rooms. Cohorts / bubbles will stay together during lunchtime and recess.
    • In middle and upper grades, block scheduling (4 class periods a day, classes meet every other day except for 7th period, which will meet every day as a home room or advisory period) will allow for fewer passing periods.
  • We will provide bottled water and allow students to bring their own water bottles. Water fountains will not be used; bottle filling stations will be in use and are available at every school building.
  • We will limit access to our school buildings for anyone other than staff and students.
    • Volunteers in general will not be allowed in schools at the start of the school year; this policy will be reviewed for possible changes after the first academic quarter of the school year. (Note: Student teachers / practicum students will be allowed, as we work with our university partners to maximize safety; other community partners may be allowed with pre-approval; all will be required to adhere to staff health and safety guidelines.)
    • Visitors, including family members, will be allowed in schools by appointment / advance notice only. Visitors will be required to wear masks while in the building. Please call your school office before coming to the school building. In general, lunch visitation will not be allowed. 
    • Drop off of items for students should be limited only to items that are absolutely essential. Please do your best to see to it that students have everything they need with them when they enter the building each day. If you must drop something off, please call your school office in advance to let them know, and call them when you arrive so that we can facilitate the dropoff as quickly and safely as possible. (Note: In general, food deliveries will not be accepted by school offices for staff or students. Gifts such as balloons, celebration cakes, and flowers will not be accepted.)
    • The use of MCS facilities by outside groups or individuals is not allowed until further notice, excepting groups with which we have formal ongoing partnerships (whom we will work with to determine usage availability and requirements).
  • We will provide a separate room within each of our buildings to isolate anyone during a school day who develops COVID-19 associated symptoms that are not otherwise explained, until the time they can leave the building, which should be as quickly as possible. This will be separate from our nurse’s stations. It will be used and monitored in accordance with Indiana State Department of Health and Indiana Department of Education guidelines. 
  • School staff will walk students who are ill out of the building to their parent/guardian at the door to be signed out. 
  • Clinic assistants will not give nebulizer or other aerosol-producing treatments in the clinic or the classroom, per CDC guidelines. If necessary please talk to your health care provider about getting a rescue inhaler with spacer for school use.
  • Medications that do not absolutely have to be given at school should be given at home (to reduce clinic traffic).
  • We will work closely with the Indiana State Health Department and Grant County Health Department as they monitor the spread of COVID-19 in the community. We will respond to requests for information to assist them in their contact tracing efforts in the wake of individual COVID-19 diagnoses. 
  • We will collaborate with local and state health officials to determine if / when building closures are needed due to individual diagnoses or spread within the wider community, following current guidance of the CDC and ISDH. 
  • Help we need from you:
    • Please provide your child a mask to wear to and from school, as well as where needed in school each day.
    • We are relying on families to help limit the spread of any illness. We understand that caring for sick children can be a scheduling issue for families. But during this time of heightened concern, it is especially important. Please make plans now for how your family will ensure that your students do not attend school sick. 
    • All staff and students are required to self-screen every day before coming to school:
    • Any student or staffer with a fever of 100 degrees F or higher is prohibited from coming to school, regardless of whether they exhibit any other symptoms. Any student or staffer exhibiting any other symptom(s) of COVID-19 that cannot otherwise be explained is prohibited from coming to school. 
    • Students and staff must be fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications to be allowed to return to school. 
    • If COVID-19 is suspected or diagnosed, additional requirements will govern a return to school. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms will be encouraged to seek medical attention for further evaluation. Return to school after documented infection with COVID-19 should be directed by the individual’s health care provider. Specific requirements for a return to school are based on CDC and ISDH guidance, which has evolved as we have learned more about COVID-19. For current requirements governing return to school, click here
    • If an individual in the home of a student or staffer has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is quarantined because of COVID-19 exposure, those in the household should also stay home for a minimum of two weeks. 
    • All immunization requirements are still in place. It is very important to make sure your child is up to date on all required immunizations. Click here for the list of required immunizations. 
    • Any student with diagnosed allergies, asthma, or other chronic health conditions that would exhibit COVID-like symptoms are encouraged to discuss a return to school with their health care provider, for recommendations about their specific needs.
    • Please note: Medically fragile students should discuss their concerns with their health care provider, to decide whether in-person or online learning is best for them.  
  • When a COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure is confirmed or suspected, what will happen?
    • The Indiana State Department of Health traces contacts of any confirmed COVID-19 case in the county. We will assist local or state health officials as needed for cases that may affect those within our schools, providing any necessary information. 
    • There will be specific cleaning protocols for rooms, buildings, and buses in the case of any suspected or confirmed COVID-19 exposure. This will follow all current CDC and ISDH recommendations. 
    • Local and state health officials have the right to order or recommend school buildings or districts be closed due to any community health concerns, including COVID-19, as does the governor. Marion Community Schools also has the right to opt to close before any such order or recommendation has been made. Specific reporting requirements and e-learning would be in place in the event of any closure.
    • We will maintain clear and consistent communication with families regarding any needed closures. It is very important that we have current contact information on file for your family. If your email or phone number changes, please inform your school office immediately.


  • Free breakfast and lunch will continue to be served at all MCS schools. You are permitted to send meals with your student if you prefer that.
  • Breakfast will be eaten in the classroom. In grades K-4, breakfast will be provided in the classroom. At grades 5-12, breakfast will be grab-and-go; as students arrive they will have the opportunity to take a breakfast as they head directly to their classrooms. (Locker access will be available; buildings will provide additional information to students as necessary.)
  • At lunchtime, social distancing and/or cohorting will be used as much as possible. Assigned seating and schedule modifications may be utilized. There will be no self-serve items, and disposable tableware will be used. 
  • No visitors will be allowed to eat lunch with students. Students will not be allowed to leave for lunch. (This includes MHS seniors who typically would be allowed to leave; that policy is suspended until further notice.)
  • In general, food deliveries will not be accepted by school offices for staff or students.


  • Families with available transportation are encouraged to consider pickup and drop-off, but bus service will continue to be provided to those who request it. (As always, bus transportation is not available to those who live in non-transportation zones or to those attending an elementary school other than the one to which they are assigned by residency.)  
  • Students will be assigned a single school bus number, bus stop, and seat. Cohorting will be used as much as possible, and seat assignments will be assigned on a “bus stop basis” meaning students at one stop will be grouped together in bus seats. This is all to limit close contact to the extent possible, and to enable contact tracing if necessary.
  • Masks are required at all times on buses, by order of Gov. Eric Holcomb (announced 7/22), as social distancing is not possible in most cases.
  • As many buses as possible will be used as shuttles to the bus hub at Marion High School, to provide for as much distancing as possible. 
  • Dismissal will be staggered (bus riders dismissed before walkers and car riders) and social distancing and/or cohorting will be used as much as possible.


  • Outdoor spaces will be used as much possible.
  • Social distancing and/or cohorting will be used as much as possible.
  • If playground structures or other equipment or items are used, they will be cleaned between groups.

Co-curricular and extra-curricular activities

  • Athletics will be guided by recommendations from IHSAA, IDOE, and ISDH / CDC. They will continue to provide direct updates to student athletes on specific requirements and recommendations.
  • All in-school and out-of-school activities will adhere to all MCS health and safety guidelines, and any other additional guidelines as determined necessary by MCS and communicated with participants of individual teams, groups, and activities.
  • If any student, staffer, coach, or sponsor is experiencing symptoms of illness as outlined in this document and/or current local, state, or national guidelines, they shall not participate in any in-person practices, meetings or competitions. See health guidelines for information on when return to in-person participation would be allowed.
  • All coaches / sponsors will adhere to the same guidelines as staff.
  • Social distancing and/or cohorting will be used as much as possible. 
  • Masks are strongly recommended as much as possible; there may be certain situations when wearing a mask may be required.
  • Outdoor spaces and larger indoor spaces (such as auditoriums and gyms) will be used when available to provide room for as much spacing as possible.
  • Sharing equipment will be avoided as much as possible, and any such items used will be disinfected between uses.
  • Any snacks provided must be individually wrapped and will only be handled / distributed by a single coach / sponsor.
  • Students attending Giant Online Academy may participate in extracurricular and / or co-curricular activities, with coordination with coach / sponsor. If a virtual student chooses to participate and the activity is not offered virtually, the participation is required to be in-person and transportation will not be provided from home. All health and safety guidelines will be followed at all times. 

Other back-to-school information