Grandview Heights Schools leaders lay groundwork for fall possibilities
Grandview Heights Schools is scheduled to open the 2020-21 school year Aug. 13.
But exactly what it will look like is still to be determined.
"The only thing we know right now is that we don't know what's going to happen in the fall," Superintendent Andy Culp said.
District officials are in the process of developing three different plans for the new school year, Culp said.
Each plan will involve a different potential scenario: students returning to traditional classes in their school buildings; a continuation of the distance learning that students began after schools were closed in March due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic; or a hybrid format that would mix traditional and distance-learning elements.
"It's prudent that we be well-prepared for all three scenarios," Culp said. "That's what's best for our students, our staff and our community.
"Even when we choose one pathway to start school in the fall, it will be subject to change," he said. "We could end up with a resurgence of the virus in the fall that would require us to make a quick pivot back to remote learning or at least a hybrid."
Having a plan for all three scenarios in place will make it easier for the district to make that pivot if necessary, Culp said.
The target is for the three options to be presented to the board during a work session set the third week of June, he said.
A final recommendation would be presented to the board in July, Culp said.
"Hopefully, by that time, we'll have more guidelines from the governor, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Health in place," he said. "If we don't, it's all the more reason why it's prudent to plan for all options."
Gov. Mike DeWine announced June 2 that his goal is to have students back in the classroom for the 2020-21 school year, but no final decision had been made as of June 4.
Grandview is using a three-step process that engages students, staff and parents to develop a plan for the fall, Culp said.
The first phase – data gathering and research – is complete and included a survey of students, staff and parents to gauge their evaluation of the distance-learning plan the district created on the fly after schools were closed, he said.
The survey results were presented to the board during a June 3 work session and subsequently presented to the leadership team at each school building by principals, Culp said.
"We will follow the same process when the different options are presented – first unpacking them at a school-board work session, then later having building principals unpack them for their leadership teams," he said.
The third and final phase would involve presenting a recommendation for board approval in July, Culp said.
The surveys were distributed to students in grades 4-12, staff members and parents via a Google form, he said.
A total of 246 students submitted responses, he said. Eighty-one staff members out of about 110 teachers districtwide responded.
Surveys were sent to 1,132 email accounts for parents across the district; 320 parents responded, Culp said.
"There weren't any real glaring red flags from the survey results, but there were some clear trends we saw that indicate the areas we need to work on as we plan for a potential continuation of distance learning in the fall," he said.
A clear desire exists for more synchronized learning that would involve more online meetings between teachers and students on a daily basis, Culp said.
A total of 87.4% of parents indicated they believe it would be beneficial for teachers to have more face-to-face virtual meetings with students, and 80.8% of staff agreed.
Nearly 75% of parents indicated they would participate if virtual meetings for parents were held to help support their child's learning.
"Having more parent 'professional development' opportunities would be helpful for families," Culp said.
Another area for improvement would be to provide more structure and accountability for students, he said.
"Overall, I was so proud of our leadership team and how they worked with our teachers and staff to pivot and design a distance-learning platform for the spring," Culp said.
School board members said they took some clear lessons from the survey results.
"One thing I noticed from the feedback, especially from parents, is that there should be some clear expectations for (online) face-to-face interactions with teachers," board member Kevin Guse said.
Board member Eric Bode said he was concerned about the number of students who apparently spent one hour or less on average involved in school work each day.
About 12.6% of students indicated they spent an hour or less daily on school work, and 16.4% of parents said their children fell under that category.
Those numbers would be unacceptable if distance learning continues in the fall, Bode said.
Since the pandemic arose toward the end of the school year, teachers knew their students and their individual learning needs, board member Emily Gephart said.
A distance-learning plan for the fall will need to address how teachers can best serve students they haven't had a chance to get to know yet, she said.
Board members said there was a lot to celebrate about the distance-learning plan Grandview implemented in the spring.
The district was well-prepared to switch to distance learning with its 1:1 initiative, which gives every student access to a laptop or tablet computer, Gephart said.
The survey results indicated the "vast majority" of students felt knowledgeable about using digital tools to complete school work, she said.
About 89% of students said they were knowledgeable or very knowledgeable and about 81% of parents said their children were comfortable using digital tools.
"Given the circumstances, parents, teachers and students all seem to agree the school district pivoted very quickly (in the spring) and pulled off what seemed to be an impossible task," Guse said.
"But in the fall, with 10 weeks to plan, the expectations are going to be higher."