March 2021 A year after the COVID-19 pandemic struck our community and dramatically impacted the learning environment for our children, I spoke with Zionsville Community Schools (ZCS) Superintendent Dr. Scott Robison on the current status of the schools, including the renovations and expansion projects that were approved by the voters in the 2019 referendum. Proceeding With Guarded Optimism The ZCS administration has been working closely with and relying on the guidance provided by the Boone County Health Department (BCHD) since the pandemic first hit our county. ZCS made the decision to bring grades 5–12 back to in-person learning, four days per week on March 9, 2021. “It has been an interesting dance, that is for sure,” Robison stated. “We’ve been so blessed with BCHD being constantly accessible and very reasonable about things like prom and graduation, which are on the books, and those decisions are based on how good things look now, and we hope that the numbers continue to look favorable as we continue to move forward with eyes wide-open, knowing that this pandemic is still going on. I've worked in five Indiana counties, and this is far and away the best for those communications and just wanting to get it right for all of our constituents.” The same guarded optimism has gone into the planning of this year’s commencement ceremony. According to Robison, officials from all three high schools in Boone County met with BCHD to discuss the county’s most recent COVID-19 metrics and the preliminary plans for proms and graduation ceremonies. ZCS’s plans are pending final approval from BCHD. If approved by BCHD, Zionsville Community High School (ZCHS) is planning on hosting its prom at the Indianapolis Executive Airport on April 24. Robison shared that it will be held in an open airplane hanger and that only ZCHS students will be allowed to attend. Robison cautioned that parents and students should be aware that weather conditions could be a factor and that additional restrictions or possible cancellations could be implemented in the event of inclement weather. Additionally, weather permitting and pending the approval of BCHD, ZCHS’s Class of 2021 is scheduled to graduate on June 6 at 2 p.m. in the St. Vincent Health Stadium—social distancing will be exercised. “The entire event hangs in the balance with what happens with COVID-19,” Robison emphasized. “And if there is a rainout on June 6 at 2 p.m., the time will be moved to 7 p.m. that same Sunday evening. And if that Sunday is a complete wash, we will make a go of it on Monday, June 7 at 7 p.m. We have all the tricks up our sleeves based on what happens with the weather.” Robison also shared that if the positive trajectory continues with regard to the county’s COVID-19 metrics, and if the BCHD approves the plan presented by ZCS at that time, the administration’s goal is to have all students back in school this coming fall, in person, five days per week—presenting the best version of Zionsville Community Schools. Taking a Moment to Give Thanks to Teachers Across the nation, communities will celebrate teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3–-7), and Robison and the ZCS administrative staff is already working on their own campaign to show all ZCS teachers their heartfelt appreciation for a job well done in the most challenging of times. “We’ve recently been offered the opportunity to name four teachers for Teacher of the Year recognition at the state level—usually it’s just one teacher—but I couldn’t fathom just mentioning four of them. So, we’re mounting a campaign for May 3–7 during Teacher Appreciation Week, and what we want to say to ALL of our teachers is that they are ALL teachers of the year at Zionsville. I really do feel that way.” Robison continued, “These frontline people—our teachers—have been delivering the core mission in very challenging times and with almost constant changes. They deserve all the recognition—every one of them. I can’t thank them enough, and I know from talking with my colleagues throughout the state, it hasn’t been the case everywhere. We’ve been really blessed.” ZCHS Renovations Amid the pandemic and everything that has gone along with it, Robison is pleased to announce that the renovations and expansion to ZCHS are on schedule. “We’re perfectly on schedule, and the school board recently adopted the bids,” Robison shared. “We will see some work within March with most of the early work on the south area where there is no construction right now, so it won’t impede any of the traffic flow.” The lead architect, Chuck Tyler, with Fanning Howey shared in a video presentation (available on the ZCS website) that the renovations and expansion to the existing structure will address three key issues that negatively impact the current student body. First, a second east-west corridor will be created for students to get from one end of the building to the other. Second, a new dining commons area will be created to improve efficiency to the way in which meals are provided to the school’s population. And third, the biggest item on the plans is switching the high school’s main entrance from the north side (Mulberry Street side) to the south side facing the ball fields. An additional 35 classrooms will be created out of new and existing spaces in the high school, and the building’s capacity will be expanded from 2,450 to 3,050 students once the construction is completed. “Big changes are coming, and people are going to notice,” Robison said. “There is an entire tour on our website. The new main entrance will be open by fall of 2022, and it’s going to be about a year and a half to two years to have all the pieces and parts buttoned up.” For more information on the renovation/expansion project on ZCHS, visit zcs.k12.in.us.