Officials at three Delaware County school districts say the first three weeks of a statewide school closure have prepared them for continuing the shutdown until May 1.
Gov. Mike DeWine on March 30 extended the school closings that began March 17.
Delaware City Schools
Delaware schools will continue to use at-home learning until May 1, said public information officer Jennifer Ruhe.
“Our at-home learning is typically a blend of home activities and online work,” she said. “Our district returns from spring break on April 6. Families will receive updated communication about learning guidance and expectations toward the end of spring break.”
Ruhe said school leaders have been reaching out to families to ensure Internet access is available.
“We are helping families get connected with companies offering free Internet services and we have provided Wi-Fi access at certain outdoor places at our buildings. We have also loaned devices to families who needed them,” she added.
The district’s efforts also are focused on at-risk students, such as those on individual education programs or those with disabilities, she said.
“Our intervention specialists and service providers are working directly with families to provide the services remotely when possible,” Ruhe said. “Our teachers staff continue to work to support all families during this time.”
She said the district will continue to provide meals during the extended closure.
“We are working on an updated schedule that will begin (Monday), April 6, and we will communicate that schedule to families,” Ruhe said.
Big Walnut Local Schools
Big Walnut Superintendent Angie Hamberg said district leaders are disappointed to have to continue remote learning, but they are ready for it.
“We would prefer to be back in our buildings with our students, but the time we spent on the front end put us in a good situation to implement remote learning as long as we need to do so,” Hamberg said.
“Instead of hopping right into remote learning on day one, we took the first week before spring break to give our teachers time to plan for meaningful activities and to ensure that all needed infrastructure was in place,” she said.
“We adopted Schoology this year as our learning management system, so we already had an established technology platform for all students and staff to use,” she said. “Our staff members are doing a phenomenal job of reaching out to students, sharing videos and making the best of this situation.”
The district has spent the last two weeks making sure that every student has access to an online device and the Internet, Hamberg said.
“Our students in grades 5-12 already have a device that they use throughout the school year,” she said. “We were able to lend a device to any elementary student’s family in need of a device.
“At the same time, our building secretaries contacted every family that reported not having Internet at home and helped them either sign up for free Spectrum or arranged for them to get a Wi-Fi hotspot from Community Library in Sunbury.”
Big Walnut staff members are continuing to work with at-risk and disabled students, but are required to use different mediums, Hamberg said.
“Our therapists who provide related services – speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, for example – are reaching out to parents to continue these services through Google Meet or by providing activities for students to complete at home, based on parent preference,” she said.
Big Walnut has conducted two meal distributions and plans to use the same format throughout the closure, Hamberg said.
“At each distribution, we have given families food for five days worth of breakfast and lunch from the district, as well as snacks and food for dinner from our Big Walnut Neighborhood Bridges group.
“Our district food service employees and community volunteers have done a great job of collaborating to meet our students’ needs during this difficult time,” Hamberg said.
Delaware Area Career Center
Career center Superintendent Mary Beth Freeman said the school closure extension was expected.
“Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton have done an excellent job keeping Ohioans informed of the data and the anticipated peak times. ... We have been communicating with our staff and families that this might be a possibility,” Freeman said.
“In addition, our administrators have been working with staff to ensure that we continue delivering a quality education for this extended time,” she said.
Freeman said the DACC staff always has been responsive and flexible to changing needs, and in this instance, they are rising to the occasion.
“After two weeks of remote instruction, we have worked with our teachers to make adjustments to online delivery, providing more flexibility,” she said. “We are looking at all factors of remote learning, especially the challenge it poses to our families who have multiple family members at home, sharing devices.”
DACC also has worked to ensure students have what they need for at-home learning, Freeman said.
“Before students left for the original three weeks of remote learning, we worked with our families to lend equipment and Wi-Fi hotspots,” she said. “Some of our families discovered through experience that when multiple family members are learning and working from home, they need more equipment than they originally thought. In these instances, our administrators are delivering needed items to those homes.
“We will continue working to ensure that every student has the equipment, Internet access and support they will need to successfully participate in our online education platform,” she said.
At-risk and disabled students remain a priority, Freeman said.
“DACC intervention specialists are using Microsoft TEAMS video-conferencing to check in with students and provide supports and accommodations,” she said. “This allows us to continue to provide specially designed instruction to stay in compliance with IEPs and 504 plans (for at-risk and disabled students, respectively).”
DACC students can continue to pick up meals from their home school districts, Freeman said.
“This is a challenging time for everyone, but I especially feel for our senior students who are missing many of those events that mark their high school experience, such as competitions and prom,” she said.
“My hope is that while they are sheltering in place, they are making special family memories that will be remembered fondly,” she said.