School Notes: Pandemic can’t disrupt district’s focus on strategic plan

Lee Cochran
ThisWeek group

As we enter the final month of 2020, we can safely say that this is a year unlike any other.   

In late November, the board of education voted to move to enhanced-distance learning between Thanksgiving and winter breaks.   

The decision was based upon many factors, including local and countywide health data. In addition, the board considered the best way to provide educational continuity during a time of significant staffing concerns and a growing number of students and staff out of school because of isolation and quarantine.   

Paul Imhoff

Our hope is to welcome students back into our buildings in our hybrid-learning model in January, and our goal is to have all students back in school fulltime as soon as it is safe to do so. 

Even during this most unusual school year, our district remains rooted in our strategic plan. One of the core values in the plan is continuous improvement, and our hybrid-learning model is no exception. Our strategic priority of student and staff well-being is at the heart of this.  

We want to make sure everyone feels a sense of balance and belonging, especially now. 

With that in mind, when students return to our hybrid-learning model they will have an enhanced schedule that ensures all students have three full days of structured and teacher-guided learning every week.   

This fall, students in the hybrid schedule were divided into two groups to allow for safe physical distancing.  

One group attended Mondays, Tuesdays and every other Wednesday. The other group attended every other Wednesday, Thursdays and Fridays. During their days out of school, students engaged in independent remote learning. 

The enhanced-hybrid schedule will have all students in a distance-learning model every Wednesday. All students in a class will be engaged with their teacher and one another on these days. This provides students more contact time with their teacher and gives them a chance to connect virtually with classmates.    

While the enhanced-hybrid schedule will apply to students on our school-based pathway, we also are focused on continuous improvement for our students in the Online Academy. In the coming weeks, our teaching and learning department will be looking at ways to enhance the learning experience for our students who have opted for remote learning for the remainder of the school year. 

Along with a focus on continuous improvement, our strategic plan has two goals: whole learning and student and staff well-being. 

Our teachers are finding new ways to connect with students and provide high-quality instruction every day. Still, we know that during these difficult times, students likely will need even more support. 

It’s important for all students, parents and guardians and grandparents to remember that our school staff is here to support our students every day – no matter what learning model we are in at the time. If you or someone you know is struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out to a teacher, counselor or principal.   

Our staff can help you connect with additional support – be it on a small scale or something to meet a more significant need.

We are all in this together, and with the lines of communication open, we can provide each other with the needed support.

Paul Imhoff is superintendent of Upper Arlington Schools. Follow him on Twitter @imhoffpual. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Upper Arlington News.