MIAMI COUNTY — Governor Mike DeWine on Monday extended the Ohio schools’ shutdown order until May 1 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Many local schools have been preparing for the school closure to be extended beyond the initial three weeks.
Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper said, “While we obviously are disappointed not to be getting our students back into our buildings until May 1, we also value our students’ safety and respect Governor DeWine’s decision. Troy City Schools will online learning efforts this week and then will be on spring break next week. The district will continue online learning after spring break on April 13.
“In addition to continuing our online learning once we return from spring break, our food service staff also will continue to distribute one week’s worth of meals every Monday,” Piper said. “So far, we are pleased with how both our online learning and meal distribution plans are going. We are proud of the efforts of everyone in the district. We hope our students are doing well and staying safe.”
Piqua City Schools Superintendent Dwayne Thompson said he agrees with the governor’s decision to extend the school closure.
“For the safety of everyone, it is the best decision,” he said. “We will continue our efforts to support the students and parents the best we can through this process.”
Thompson said the district has made efforts to reach out to each family to make sure they have the support needed to continue at-home learning.
“If parents and students need help, I encourage them to reach out to teachers and building administrators through email or by calling the school phone number and selecting the correct extension number,” Thompson said.
He added that technical support is available by calling the technology hotline at (937) 916-3150. Parents and community members who need assistance from the district may email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (937) 773-4321.
Covington Exempted Village School District Superintendent Gene Gooding echoed the sentiment of providing support with continuing students’ education during the closure.
“We will continue to do our best to provide our students with a high quality education during this required closure,” he said. “We realize that remote learning is not ideal, but our teachers, parents and students are working together to make the most of this very unusual and difficult situation.”
Gooding said Covington teachers are working to provide instruction to students with the help of technology.
“(Teachers) are recording lessons, holding virtual class discussions, and much more,” Gooding said. “Our focus has transitioned from completing individual work, to active teaching and learning. As we progress through the next month, the parents and students will see this trend continue.”
Superintendent Gretta Kumpf of the Tipp City Exempted Village School District said, “My administration team and I have been planning for an extended school closure for about two weeks. Part of that process includes determining which families do not have internet access and which households do not have a device for students to do remote learning.”
Kumpf said they have been developing more remote learning opportunities for students, expressing confidence in her staff that they will “rise to this challenge.”
Kumpf also added they are not trying to duplicate learning experiences students receive in the classrooms as that would be “unrealistic.”
“Learning is disrupted in a significant way. The goal is to ensure lessons are meaningful, reasonable, and age appropriate so students can stay engaged, learning can continue, and we remain connected,” Kumpf said. She said they are also being mindful of the new learning environments students are in, noting the increased anxiety and stress with which families may be dealing.
“Life is dramatically different, infused with anxiety, stress, and even fear,” Kumpf said. “Many parents and guardians are working from home, while caring for children and helping them with their distance learning. Many parents are in the medical field, first responders, or an essential industry, all of whom are working long hours. Others are worried about their jobs and the health of loved ones. I am mindful of a new homelife and committed to providing a remote learning plan that provides balance for everyone.”
Bethel Local Schools Superintendent Justin Firks said their administrative team got together remotely last Friday to discuss ideas and they will be meeting again on Wednesday to finalize their plans for this extended closure.
For the first three weeks, Bethel schools focused on language arts and math, and for the upcoming weeks, they will be looking at extended learning opportunities for those subjects, as well as other subjects like science, social studies, art, music, physical education, Spanish, and so on.
“We’re going to try to find some sort of balance,” Firks said.
Firks said their faculty was in good communication with students and families and their district received positive comments.
“We’re trying to make the best of the situation,” Firks said.
Milton-Union Local Schools Superintendent Dr. Brad Ritchey shared how some staff members are getting creative to connect to students as well as planning for another month of remote learning.
“As a district, we are trying to get a handle on the appropriate next steps regarding remote learning,” Ritchey said.
Ritchey explained that with the latest extension, teachers are adapting to plan for the long term.
“We are weighing how to handle the introduction of new content and learning versus review, remediation, and enrichment activities. This conversation continues to evolve with the other members of the Milton-Union team and is informed by communications from the Governor, Ohio Legislature, and Ohio Department of Education,” he said.
Newton Local Schools Superintendent Pat McBride said the district began preparing for in-home instruction and its challenges such as poor or no internet connectivity in homes. McBride also said staff had prepared for the extension of the state-wide school closure and anticipated remote learning being continued through the month of April.
“Teachers worked relentlessly and well into the evening for several evenings preparing work for students that would be adequate through the month of April,” McBride said. “These decisions have served our district well up to this point. Our teachers and entire support staff have shown a resilience and a will that is truly inspiring.”
McBride also said staff has continued to deliver services to special needs students. Cafeteria staff has assembled boxes of food for breakfast and lunch for those students that are on the federal assistance lunch program and bus drivers have been delivering food to the students.
McBride said, “Like all other districts and schools, we will continue to plan for those things which one can reasonably predict may happen in the future to include returning to school on May 4 or finishing the school year by providing instruction as we are currently. We will make contingency plans for events that may not happen and also plan for the same events as we have in past years.”
Miami East Local Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Rappold said the district is working on breaking up the monotony of school work with “social emotional learning” projects throughout the month of April. He said school counselors and staff were working on projects for students like sending a card to retirement homes or writing letters to relatives as part of their learning at home activities.
The district has also been preparing meals for students, which Rappold said had more participation than initially anticipated. School bus drivers deliver the meals to the district’s villages and neighborhoods. Rappold said students enjoy seeing the bus as a reminder of school life. He also said the drivers enjoy seeing the children who have been making cards for them during this time.
“The parents have been phenomenal and everyone has had great patience,” he said.
Rappold said the district has been reaching out to parents by phone calls and weekly emails and social media. The district will begin school work drop off next week for students to turn in completed work. The district has also helped connect families with laptops for students of all ages to use. Teachers also have been connecting students through Google Classroom meet-ups. Rappold shared that a second-grade teacher recently had one that had great participation for elementary students who enjoyed seeing each other and talking with one another online.
“It’s been a new way to teach and a new way to learn,” Rappold said.
Officials from Bradford, Troy Christian Schools and Piqua Catholic School did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.
Sam Wildow, Melanie Yingst, and Aimee Hancock contributed to this story.