COLUMNS

Getting Technical: Despite uncertainty, Tolles plans for high-quality learning

EMMY BEESON
Emmy Beeson

Tolles Career & Technical Center leaders view the families, schools and businesses in the Tolles Career-Technical Planning District as our community, and Tolles works to provide quality career-technical education to the students in your neighborhoods.

As a community, we are facing challenging times. The 2020-21 school year promises to be different than any year before because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. We learned many lessons when we began the extended building closure March 16, but there still is much more for us to learn, design, create and dream.

At Tolles, our mission is to create an environment that goes beyond the expectations of our students, families and partners by providing marketable skills and positive relationships to ensure all graduates are prepared for their successful futures. We will do this regardless of how we must structure our school day because of the pandemic.

However, this is especially tricky for career centers because it is impossible to provide high-quality career-technical education if we cannot have face-to-face contact with students. As our favorite welding-and-fabrication instructor Bill Pencil said, "I can teach welding online all year, and at the end of the year, none of my students will know how to weld."

With this in mind, we have developed a comprehensive, responsible restart plan that not only takes into account the recommendations provided by the health departments for Ohio, Columbus and Franklin, Madison and Union counties, the Ohio Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but also considers the wants, needs and aspirations of our students, families, staff members and community partners.

In preparing this plan, we:

* Examined best practices.

* Reviewed example plans developed by other Ohio school districts and career centers.

* Conducted focus-groups with both staff members and students.

This was done in an effort to make decisions that were well-informed and met the specific needs of our learning organization.

During the focus-group meetings, everyone made it clear that they want to come back to school full-time. However, students and staff members also expressed a willingness to participate in a blended model that would allow teachers to build learning momentum and allow students to access necessary resources while helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

But even as I wrote this article, we are receiving updated information from health officials. With such a fluid situation, making concrete decisions has become very difficult.

At the end of the day, we are working to create the most robust plan possible under our current constraints.

We aim not only to help ensure that a high-quality education is delivered to students but also to support the health and safety of each member of our learning organization. In other words, it allows us to achieve our mantra and lift all students.

Just like all other schools in our region, we are working on the details for both blended learning and remote learning, if necessary. However, all plans are subject to change if the health situation requires it.

I know this is a challenging time. I cannot express the gratitude I have for the families, colleagues and business partners who have encouraged us and who have empathized with the position we are in. Even though this is not a scenario anyone of us would have chosen, they have demonstrated what it means to be a community, and Tolles is proud to be a part of the community. Thank you.

We will cross uncharted waters together, and the end result still will be an amazing school year of high-quality learning.

Emmy Beeson is superintendent of Tolles Career & Technical Center, which includes students from the Dublin and Hilliard school districts. Contact her at ebeeson@ tollestech.com.