Olentangy Local School District officials were as rocked by the impact of the efforts to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus as anyone.
But, leaders said, digital platforms and other preexisting commitments to technology have helped the district’s teachers and students make the transition from traditional education to distance learning in relatively short order.
“Our staff worked tremendously hard to make this switch in a short amount of time,” district spokeswoman Krista Davis said.
Online instruction began March 17 for the district’s students and teachers – a breakneck turnaround that reflected the ever-changing mandates from government officials.
“Our school-closure plan originally reflected the governor’s mandate: starting at the end of the day on Monday (March 16),” Davis said. “The district leadership team updated that plan on Saturday (March 14), closing school on Monday.
“Staff prepared materials over the weekend and contacted parents to let them know if anything needed to be picked up,” Davis said. “If materials needed to be picked up, they were placed on tables and in bins to minimize human contact.”
Buildings officially closed to teachers and students March 18.
Davis said other school staff members continue to work “in varying capacities, all heeding guidelines set forth by our government and health officials.”
Davis said the transition to remote instruction was facilitated by digital platforms regularly used by staff and students. She said students who do not have access to the internet or internet-enabled devices were given a device and/or printed materials for at-home learning.
“Teachers did have to make alterations to their lesson plans, and we couldn’t be more proud of their commitment to their students. Our distance-learning program does not mirror a typical school day, and what’s being asked of students varies by class and grade level,” Davis said.
She said the district would not have to make up days if the current three-week closure remains unchanged, though Gov. Mike DeWine has said it is likely the closure will be extended, possibly through the end of the school year.
Davis said with the situation so fluid, district leadership is “having conversations and examining options” regarding a longer closure, adding that “no decisions have been made.”
The district continues to provide free and reduced-price meals to students during the closure, Davis said. Meals are available for pickup from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at six locations throughout the district: Glen Oak, Heritage, Oak Creek and Olentangy Meadows elementary schools and Orange and Liberty high schools.
Two lunches and two breakfasts are provided each Monday, with three lunches and three breakfasts offered Wednesdays.
According to the district’s website, all meals are prepackaged, and students, parents or guardians should pick them up at the main entrance of each site location – whether walking up to the site or driving through. A student must be present to receive a meal.
The district will continue to post information on its website, olentangy.k12.oh.us.