By DENISE GRANT
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday that the state’s schools will remain closed until May 1, meaning that remote education will be the norm for schoolchildren, teachers and their parents for the next four weeks, at least.
Good thing everyone is already settling into a routine, and for Findlay/Hancock County, school spirit is alive and well “¦ and now, virtual.
“I will tell you that this unprecedented time in our country is unlike anything I have experienced in my time in education,” said Kevin Haught, superintendent of Arlington Schools. “In a matter of hours, we asked the education world to go from face-to-face/in-person education to educating the students of Ohio (and much of the country) via remote learning.”
Still, he said students, teachers and families are making the best of it.
Arlington is using online teaching, phone calls, emails, the Remind and ClassTag apps, its website and written material sent home, to reach students.
Kim Plesec, principal at Jefferson Primary School in Findlay, a kindergarten through second-grade building, says the response has been amazing.
Each day, student leaders run a “town hall” meeting on the schools’ Facebook page, she said.
The school/home connectivity is about more than reading, writing and arithmetic. There’s plenty of encouragement along with comforting and addressing the fear caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. And much to the delight of local educators and parents alike, some students who don’t perform well in a traditional classroom setting are excelling in virtual classrooms.
“Our teachers have all jumped right into the deep end and have learned how to swim very quickly, and our students have been checking in with their teachers and demonstrating an appreciation for the importance of continuing their education,” said Michael Scoles, principal of Lincoln Elementary School, Findlay.
“In fact, it has been fun to see that some of our most challenging students during ‘regular’ school have been some of the most dedicated students since moving to the remote learning environment,” Scoles said.
Haught has heard comments from seniors anxious about graduation, as well as students exalting their digital prowess as “natives of the technological world.”
Teachers with young children at home are writing lesson plans late into the night, Haught said. One eighth-grade teacher makes it a point to ask students how they are doing at the end of each instructional video. Their responses are heartwarming.
“I have no questions, you did a good job explaining. Thank you for taking time away from your family to make us a video! Be safe!” wrote one student.
“Even with hard work, going to online learning and paper packets is still going to have hiccups throughout the process. Teachers are now exploring various ways of teaching online,” said Traci Conley, superintendent of Vanlue Schools. “We have teachers using Google Meet and YouTube for lessons, and teachers reading stories to their students.”
Conley said, “”¦ We just have to remind one another to be patient because we are all in this together.”
“Teachers are learning new technology daily and there is a lot of trial and error. The kids are getting a kick out of our bloopers,” said Kristin Hudok, a third-grade Findlay teacher. “We miss that daily face-to-face time, it can’t be re-created through a screen, but we are surviving, and we will all, students and teachers, become better because of all of this.”
Local school districts also quickly organized their own food distribution system to help feed students during the shutdown.
Riverdale Schools are delivering about 100 “grab and go” meals each day. Drop-off points include the Forest-Jackson Public Library, 102 W. Lima St., Forest; Mount Blanchard United Methodist Church, 204 S. Main St., Mount Blanchard; and the Wharton First Church of God, on Cass Street, Wharton.
“Our food service director, Tina Weber, has stepped up to ensure that we are able to get the resources needed for the meals. Tina and her team have embraced this opportunity to serve our students and families,” said Jeffrey Young, Riverdale Schools superintendent. “They continue to adjust and adapt.”
McComb Schools are feeding over 200 children throughout the district with meal pickup locations in both McComb and Hoytville.
“Food supervisor Steve Rider and his staff have done an amazing job of preparing, organizing and creating a system to make sure children needing meals have an option,” said McComb Superintendent Tony Fenstermaker.
Fenstermaker said the entire staff has “really stepped up some” with exploring new methods of technology, some assisting with meal prep, others with helping during meal pickup.
“There is definitely a disconnect with many of our students and staff, and they are trying every way possible to stay connected,” he said.
“Most importantly, I hear how much guardians/parents are feeling the weight of working from home themselves, assisting with curriculum and also maintaining the household,” Fenstermaker said. “The guardians/parents are the ones that will likely need a spring break for sure.”