While Bexley City School District buildings remain closed through at least May 1 in accordance with Gov. Mike DeWine's stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, school administrators are discussing how to issue grades in a way that would not harm students' academic standing.

The district has offered online distance learning since the governor's order closed school buildings in mid-March, and the district is reviewing options on how to proceed if schools are closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller said.

"This distance-learning environment should not negatively impact a student's grade in any way," Miller said during the school board's April 7 meeting, which was held virtually through Zoom due to the state's social-distancing guidelines.

"At the same time, some groups are talking about pass/fail. If we went pass/fail, that could potentially eliminate a semester that a student would use toward their grade. And some of our students would like to be able to receive a grade for the second semester and count that toward the grade-point average," she said.

Miller said she and chief academic officer Jill Abraham met with Bexley High School principal Kristin Robbins and assistant principal Craig McMillen the week of March 30 and discussed options that would allow students to earn a grade for the second semester. Miller said the high school's instructional chairmen would review options and submit a recommendation to her.

Miller said the district's permanent-improvement fund provided each teacher with a laptop computer. The district also has distributed more than 90 technology devices to students to facilitate distance learning, she said, based on a survey the district distributed assessing students' needs.

"We have very limited devices to be able to loan to students," she said. "We have households with no device whatsoever, and so that's where the priority was."

Miller said she and Robbins also are discussing alternatives for the school's graduation, scheduled May 24.

Miller said administrators would seek input from graduating seniors on "how we can provide a meaningful end to their senior year amidst the guidance and the need to make decisions to keep people safe, that keep people healthy."

The district has canceled reservations for the venue where the senior prom was to be held and is exploring alternatives, Miller said.

"We're talking about what else we might be able to do, what might we be able to do in the future," she said. "We all are having conversations with our colleagues in other districts about ideas and possibilities."

In other business April 7, the school board unanimously approved the hiring of Racquel Armstrong to fill the vacant position of middle school assistant principal at an annual salary of $100,000 on a contract that begins Aug. 1, 2020, and runs through July 31, 2022.

The board also approved a job description for the district to hire a technology-integration coach to provide technology support to teachers and students at a salary to be determined.

The district's existing technology-integration plan calls for the hiring of two technology-integration coaches, but Miller said she is asking that one be hired now. She said the distance-learning environment has demonstrated the importance of investing in technology.

"Upgrades in technology is not just devices," Miller said. "We also need to support our teachers, and having a coach who can do that would be most advantageous for both our teachers and our students and I believe it's a need that we have."

Board members Alissha Mitchell and Victoria Powers said the district should exercise caution concerning all budget items, since schools could be affected by the coronavirus-related loss of state revenue.

"I know we are being as cautious as we can be about new expenditures and I do understand that this new environment that we're in requires us to pay a different and more urgent attention to technology issues," Powers said. "I do continue to be very concerned about where our money is going to be in the fall, given all the expenses that are being loaded onto the state and the budgetary concerns."

Mitchell said the district should evaluate all of its operating costs to find additional savings.

"I think we have to take a hard look at whether or not we are operating as efficiently as we can in every bucket," Mitchell said.

"There shouldn't be a bucket that we shouldn't be looking at."

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