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FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Students in the Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. woke up Wednesday to a special surprise, and it wasn’t just the snow.

Not only did they get a day off school, but also an assignment to play.

Superintendent Jack Parker said students in the district east of Indianapolis have missed out on so much this year during the coronavirus pandemic that he wanted to make sure they didn’t have to add the first snow of the season to their list.

Parker sent families an email instructing them to use the “scientific process in planning appropriate clothing to remain warm and dry while spending time outside. Once this hypothesis has been identified, and appropriate attire has been secured, students will be expected to test their theory by going outdoors and playing in the snow.”

Parent Toni Dekeyser said, after a tough several months, the “scientific process” was just the break she and her son needed.

“It was so much relief and then to wake my son up this morning and say, ‘Hey, not only do you not have to get up right now, but you have a snow day and we get to go outside and play in the snow,’ and he was ecstatic,” Dekeyser said.

Her son Lucas said, “I didn’t have to really do school. I didn’t have to do all my work and get stressed about it.”

Stressed is a feeling Dekeyser never imagined her 10-year-old would know, and, for Parker, finding ways to ease that burden is what’s most important.

The superintendent said, “I really felt a need for them to get out there and exercise outside and recharge their batteries both physically and emotionally.”

He said students took his message seriously. He drove around the community and saw more kids playing outside than he has in months.

The school shared a post on its Facebook page asking families to show how they spent their day off. Nearly 150 people by Wednesday evening had shared photos and videos, and thanked the school district for a fun snow day.

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — With early morning low temperatures and ice causing school start delays, Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation is teaming up with local start-up Mobil Trackr to provide GPS school bus tracking to parents and students waiting at the bus stop.

Derek Shelton, director of operations at Mt. Vernon Community Schools (MVCS) explained how parents can download the free app and use it anytime to locate their child’s school bus within their fleet of more than 60 buses.

“The app tracks the bus, whether it’s parked or driving, and the parent or child can pull the app up and see where their bus is,” Shelton said. “In after-school activities, when our buses have to travel significant distances, parents can still track the bus and know that the kids are on their way home.”

Parents can adjust the settings in the “Don’t Miss the Bus!” app to send them a push notification when the bus nears their child’s stop. The app also alerts parents when a bus number changes or if the schools have a delay or cancellation. Shelton, a father of two children attending Mt. Vernon schools, says he feels incorporating the app into their system shows parents the schools prioritize student safety.

“You just have the peace of mind as a parent that the kids are safe, and where they’re at, and if they’re there when they’re supposed to be there,” Shelton said.

Other school districts in central Indiana have similar programs, but Mt. Vernon’s system includes WiFi on all buses and several layers of security to ensure only those authorized to enter the app can see the bus locations. The system was developed by Mobil Trackr, an Internet of Things wireless provider based in Fishers.

“I think tech that is going to help you keep kids safe is completely needed,” said Bob Logan, vice president of sales for Mobil Trackr.

“When you can protect them when they go on the internet, and looking at them when they go places, as a parent, you feel very secure,” Logan said.

Logan says he’s a graduate of Indianapolis Public Schools and has been in the wireless industry for almost three decades. He hopes to share this technology with other school corporations around the state and help more parents and guardians make informed decisions about their children.

“That’s why Mt. Vernon is so cutting edge — because they’re wanting to deliver something to their parents to show they care enough to put these systems in place to do things for their young people,” said Logan. “We’re excited to be a part of it.”

Greenwood defeats Mt. Vernon 50-6.

Mt. Vernon defeats Shelbyville 30-14.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — WISH-TV welcomed the Mount Vernon High School marching band during Friday night’s newscast.

They were in WISH-TV studios for the Zone!

Our team visited 22 games across central Indiana tonight. Tune in to WISH-TV every Friday night for “The Zone” high school football highlights.

Pendleton Heights defeats Mount Vernon 23-21.

FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – Classes have only just started, but one school system is already celebrating an important success.

With the start of every school year, many administrators across central Indiana face a common crisis: how to hire enough bus drivers.

The job takes training, dedication and an unflappable personality.  It also requires odd hours and often offers no full-time pay or benefits.

This year, for the first time in many years, Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation has enough drivers to comfortably cover all shifts. Leaders credit a little creativity and a lot of commitment.

“They’re the caretakers of our children on their way to and from school, so that is important to us,” says Dr. Shane Robbins as he explains how he and his team are tackling the issue.

Earlier in the year, the district’s transportation team sent home a one-page flier to nearly every home in the district, offering the chance for anyone -and everyone- to learn how to drive a bus and do it for a living.

The flier is a direct appeal to parents and grandparents especially, offering “the same school schedule as your parent/grandchild”, benefits and pay of $23-$30/hour.

Response has been tremendous. The district is up to at least 40 drivers from 30 last year – and is currently training more.

“I love being able to see my children during the day,” says new driver (and former teacher) Natalie Tucker. “I get to know the teachers and community a bit better, then be home the exact same time they are.”

Tucker says until a few months ago, she never even considered driving a bus. “But now that it’s become a vision, I can’t see myself anywhere else.”

Leann Wright said her life changed with a trip to the mailbox, “Over spring break, I saw the flier come through my son’s folder for a bus driver.” After some hard Q&A and considerable family conversation, Wright shelved the business degree she was pursuing and will now drive the routes she once rode as a student.

“It was surreal walking through the old schools. It’s been 10 years and it was really neat.”

The district is happy to hire people who have little or no experience, but leaders say they will not send them out on the road without intense training.

“Physical and written tests and skills tests. A lot involved,” explains Transportation Assistant Rita Osborn. “Takes a lot of time, commitment, and money.”

So far, that commitment is paying off with peace of mind for the district, which no longer is in danger of a few driver sick calls or family emergencies leading to stranded students.

Not that the search is over.

“Come on in,” says Osborn. “I mean the more we get, the better. There’s always something we can put you into!”

To learn more about driver opportunities and many other jobs at Mt. Vernon Schools, click here.

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FORTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A high school basketball team is encouraging younger students by offering free game tickets and ice cream to those who meet their reading goals.

The Mt. Vernon High School boys basketball team has organized a reading contest for students at three Mt. Vernon elementary schools, honoring students with free game admission, prizes and recognition during their basketball games.

Students who participate in this contest, which continues through Feb. 6, attempt to meet weekly reading time goals — 75 minutes for kindergarten, 100 minutes for first and second, and 125 minutes for third through fifth grade. Those who reach the goals receive free admission to a basketball game, where students are honored during halftime then treated to an ice cream party with cheerleaders and players after the game.

The school says roughly 300 students were honored at games during last year’s contest, and they expect an even higher turnout this year.

Each elementary school will be recognized at its own game, as follows:

Click here to watch a video the players made to announce the contest.

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Delta defeats Mount Vernon 12-6.

Mount Vernon defeats New Castle 42-13.