Erin and Phillip Buerk have entered uncharted territory, serving as both parents, teachers and, in Phillip Buerk’s case, work-at-home employee.
The parents of two Worthington Schools children are responding to Gov. Mike DeWine’s executive order March 12 to close schools for at least three weeks by the end of the day March 16, keeping children at home in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The last student day in Worthington Schools buildings was March 13, according to the district’s coronavirus page at worthington.k12.oh.us/Page/4524.
DeWine has signaled the closure could be extended beyond April 3.
Erin Buerk, a volunteer coordinator at Worthington Libraries, which also has closed because of COVID-19, said the March 12 announcement “has thrown all the wheels off the bus.”
In other words, they all are trying to adjust to their new environment, Buerk said.
“They’re learning mom has limits to her patience,” she said of her children: Milo, 11, a sixth-grader, and Delia, 9, a third-grader, both of whom attend Worthington Hills Elementary School.
Acting on DeWine’s order, 10,500 students and 1,257 employees in the district were sent home with some semblance of what was required and asked to wait on further instruction, said Vicki Gnezda, a spokeswoman for Worthington Schools.
“We’re obviously doing what he asks of us, and I think probably in a lot of ways this is chaos, but we’re doing the best we can to help our families through this,” Gnezda said.
Remote learning was scheduled to begin in the district Tuesday, March 24, Gnezda said.
Teachers were trained remotely this week on the curriculum, she said.
The expectation is students will spend 30 to 45 minutes per content area three times a week, Gnezda said.
The district’s website said teachers would reach out to families to share specific expectations.
“The goal of remote learning is to support essential/core learning for the grade level/course and to keep the learning moving forward to the extent possible,” the website said. “Of course, remote learning does not replace learning in the classroom.
“Our teachers will continue to provide instruction for students to meet graduation requirements. The Ohio Department of Education is aware of the challenges and ramifications in meeting the requirements and will provide additional information in the future.”
Teachers, who were expected to be available during normal school days Mondays through Fridays, could be contacted by email with the addresses listed in the staff directory, the website said.
Students with limited technology were given laptops and access to free Wi-Fi, she said.
As far as whether makeup days would be needed at the end of the school year and if standardized tests would be administered, district leaders have been waiting for direction from state and federal officials and will communicate it “as soon as we have more to say,” Gnezda said.
“We’ll be sure the families have the information they need,” she said.
District leaders were directing families to worthington.k12.oh.us to keep up with any changes.
In the aftermath of the closure, on March 17, district employees started providing free to-go breakfast-and-lunch meals to students between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays at Thomas Worthington and Kilbourne high schools and Slate Hill Elementary School, according to the website. People picking up meals had to have their children with them, the website said.
Given the scope of the disease and the challenges it presents, Gnezda said, the state has done a laudable job handling the crisis.
“I think in Worthington, we appreciate the governor’s leadership, and we want to do whatever we can to ensure the safety of our community,” she said.
The district website acknowledged “that school is not expected to reopen until April 6,” but “the governor has made it clear that the time could be extended.” If that happens, district leaders would work on a plan, the website said.
Meanwhile, Erin Buerk said, she and her family will do whatever it takes to weather the storm.
“I really think whatever problems will come of this, with school or socially, take a way backseat – (it) is not even in the car – (when it comes to) what needs to happen for the greater good of Ohio,” she said.