Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools will continue to use technology and online resources to support learning as a result of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's extension of the statewide K-12 school closure to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

DeWine had said schools would be closed until April 6 initially; the new order extends that to May 1.

"Our original plan involved a quick adaptation for our teachers to support eight days of distance learning," said Steve Barrett, Gahanna superintendent. "As we have worked with students and staff in this new learning space, we have learned a lot and will be making adjustments to our plan that supports our teachers with keeping learning going for an extended period of time."

He said the district would continue to be responsive and make changes as necessary.

"The use of technology and online resources to support learning is not new to our teachers and students," Barrett said. "Teachers led the effort to use Chromebooks in the classroom, as they saw benefits of learning applications such as Google Classroom."

Teachers applied for grants from the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation, which has supported innovation in classrooms, and began using technology in meaningful ways with students, he said.

After the positive response from teachers and students, the district explored options for every student to have access to a device.

"Two years ago, we implemented a 1:1 technology initiative throughout the district," Barrett said. "As a result, we are very fortunate to be able to provide all students in grades 2-12 with Chromebooks they can use during this distance-learning time."

He said the district is looking into the possibility of ensuring kindergarten and first-grade students can have devices for distance learning, as well.

With the adoption of Chromebooks, the district had been working to build a culture of collaborative learning with Google Classroom and other distance-learning applications, said Jill Elliott, assistant superintendent

"Our curriculum team is well-versed in these applications and has had a great deal of professional development in working with students online," she said. "It is truly remarkable the way everyone is stepping up to provide meaningful learning experiences for our students. Teachers are hosting virtual morning meetings with students, sharing recorded lessons, and conferencing with students about their learning at home."

Barrett and Elliott said they both are proud of the teachers, principals, counselors, technology team and support staff for all they've done to keep education going.

"I am confident such worthwhile learning opportunities will continue during this extended closure," Barrett said.

Teachers have worked hard to check in with families that do not have consistent internet access, and the technology department has created a resource that explains options for gaining access, Elliott said.

"There are many internet providers offering free, temporary service for students at this time, and we have had families taking advantage of these opportunities," she said. "In the event that families cannot secure consistent connectivity, we will work to ensure alternative learning opportunities are available."

Elliott said the district has been connecting with families to make adjustments to programming as appropriate and would continue to support all of the educational needs of learners.

Barrett said the district also is committed to ensuring all students have their nutritional needs met and would provide breakfast and lunch to students who are in need of meals.

"We have provided food for some 350 families each week so far," he said. "We are thankful to Gahanna Residents In Need, who provided lunch to our students during spring break, and Gahanna Neighborhood Bridges, who have hosted several food collection drives for our families."

He said the community has pulled together during the pandemic and donated over $27,000 to GRIN for serving families in need.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla