Westerville City School District leaders say they are committed to supporting students and families during the state-mandated closure of schools for a least three weeks, and perhaps more, as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“These are unusual times for everyone, but as we are witnessing, by working together and following established instructions, we will get through this public health crisis as best as possible,” said Superintendent John Kellogg in a March 18 letter to district families. “I want to let our families know that, should this closure be extended beyond April 5, we will have systems in place to address the new set of challenges that will be created as a result.”

District offices closed at the end of the day March 18, and employees began working from home.

Kellogg said families should monitor wcsoh.org/covid19 for information.

Greg Viebranz, the district’s executive director of communication and technology, said the district intends to be a lead organization in the community during the pandemic.

“We serve many populations that require additional support and care, including students with food insecurities, students with special-education needs, homeless students and students who benefit from additional social-emotional support,” he said. “We continue our planning efforts and are engaging our community partners to determine how we can work together to overcome these and other challenges created by the mandated closure of our schools.”

Viebranz said the district’s greatest resource is its staff.

“(We) want to mobilize that resource to help address the anxiety and isolation that is certain to occur during these unprecedented times,” he said.

Westerville’s spring break already was scheduled March 23 to Friday, March 27. If the district were to reopen its buildings April 6, Viebranz said, only nine days would have been missed.

“Our goal is to meet the required number of instructional hours for a complete school year without needing to add days to the end of the academic calendar,” he said.

Students who have access to technology at home will be able to use it to complete much of their work through online instruction, Viebranz said.

He said the district would have other options available for students who do not have access to technology.

For the most part, Viebranz said, school work would occur remotely.

“We are communicating directly with staff regarding work expectations over the coming weeks,” he said.

Viebranz said custodians would complete a deep cleaning of school facilities.

He said the district is awaiting guidance from the Ohio Department of Education concerning standardized tests.

“We were originally going to begin testing on April 6. ... We'll share a revised testing schedule once it is developed,” he said.

Lunch bus stops

In order to address food insecurities during the coming weeks, Viebranz said, every weekday through at least April 3, 16 district buses and two vans were scheduled make 75 stops around the district to deliver food to children who are 18 years of age and younger.

Each stop has a designated window of time, with all stops being completed between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., he said.

Huber Ridge Elementary School, 5757 Buenos Aires Blvd., also will serve as a walk-up site for meals between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each weekday.

“Through this effort, we believe we will be able to address food insecurities and reach close to 8,000 children each day,” Viebranz said. “This delivery plan was developed according to USDA regulations, which state that every child who wants a meal must be present at the designated delivery location.”

He said that means children would not be able to take meals back to siblings.

Children were provided a lunch for the day and a breakfast meal for the next morning.

“We will have additional vehicles on standby to deliver more meals at a moment’s notice in case a location runs out of food and there are children who have not yet received their meals,” Viebranz said. “Any leftover food from these routes will be taken back to Huber Ridge Elementary School for distribution.”

He said specific delivery locations and times have been emailed to families.

“We have been in contact with other community organizations, such as the Westerville Area Resource Ministry, that also are working to make meals available to families,” Viebranz said.

“Families are encouraged to watch for information from these valued partners in this effort.”