On May 12th, Governor Mike DeWine announced the expiration of all health orders across the state of Ohio with the exception of some limited orders applying to places like nursing homes. The expiring health orders do apply to schools and will be rescinded on June 2, 2021.
Starting tomorrow, June 2nd, the masking orders will expire for schools. Individuals in Worthington Schools are encouraged to continue to wear a mask in school or at school-related events, but it will not be mandated. We ask families to consult with their health providers for recommendations on the best choices for their specific needs.
Please note that some practices that have been adopted or expanded this year will remain as public health orders begin to lift. These practices include hand washing routines, hand sanitizer stations and use, and deep cleaning strategies. Additionally, for summer learning, monitoring signs of illness and staying home when ill will continue to be very important. These practices are important to help schools reduce the spread of seasonal colds and other illnesses. Perhaps most importantly, we envision a traditional start to the 2021-22 school year.
We truly appreciate our students, staff, and families’ efforts throughout this school year to follow the public health orders which allowed us to complete the school year in a positive way. This has taken a community effort and we are so proud of every member of our Worthington family. Thank you!
One of the lessons in life that has been cemented to me over and over again is that who you’re with is always more important than where you are. It’s the people that we are surrounded by that enrich our lives and make all the difference in our experience. In public schools that is even more true. We say that nothing is more important than the teacher in the classroom. I believe that at my core. And, I also believe that it’s those staff members in our offices, on our school buses, and helping to keep our facilities operating, that play critical roles in the experiences of our students and those in our community.
As we near the end of this school year we have many very important Worthington staff members who have decided to retire. The past 15 months have been very difficult for our students and families but they’ve also been extremely challenging for our staff members. One of the many disappointments of the pandemic year is that we haven’t been together and we haven’t held our normal retirement celebrations.
We have a significant number of staff members who will retire at the conclusion of this school year. They have invested their lives in striving to make a long-term positive difference in Worthington. Liberty teacher Sara Dale is an amazing example of just that. In her retirement letter she said:
“Having lived in the City of Worthington for nearly 54 years, the core of who I am is a reflection of the education and experiences my family and I enjoyed from living in this community. A graduate of Evening Street Elementary School (’76), Perry Middle School (’78), and Thomas Worthington High School (’82), I have now been teaching at Liberty Elementary since 1988. My mother, Polly Tewart and my brother, Jeff Tewart both dedicated their careers as teachers at Worthington Schools. Currently my niece, Jennifer Schulze teaches kindergarten. I suppose I followed in their footsteps and learned from them the importance of working with children and the impact a teacher can make for the community.
It is now time for me to move on. I am respectfully submitting my plans for retirement, effective the end of this school year. I am as humbled and proud today as I was when I first accepted a teaching position 33 year ago. My love for this community and my students will remain with me for the remainder of my days and I am thankful for the opportunities I had with Worthington Schools.”
How cool is that. Sara’s story is unique and yet everyone’s story is equally unique. Over the last two weeks of school please work to celebrate those who have chosen to retire from Worthington Schools. They deserve our sincere thanks and appreciation! – Trent Bowers, Superintendent
This week begins the official Teacher Appreciation Week nationwide. I’m not sure there is any way to adequately show our appreciation for the work of our Worthington staff over the past 14 months. (But, it would be great if you attempted to appreciate them anyway!) The work of public educators matters. It matters yesterday, today and tomorrow. It’s often very difficult work, but it’s meaningful and both life giving and life changing. I’m sure our staff is tired both emotionally and physically. I think that’s to be expected. Because making lifelong positive contributions with other humans takes a whole lot of work, patience, relentless persistence, and consistent desire.
Last week I attended a middle school track meet to watch my daughter Riley run. It was a day where the weather changed twelve times. In the morning I was sure the meet would be canceled due to projected storms. But by 4:00 P.M. my phone was showing just a 15% chance of rain during the track meet hours and temps around 60 degrees. I decided to throw a jacket into the car just to be safe and headed to the meet. Almost as soon as I arrived the rain began. It was a slow rain at first but steady. I put my jacket on and assumed it would stop. Instead of stopping it rained harder. I walked back to my car skirting puddles and mud to get an umbrella. Almost as soon as I had my umbrella along the fence line, the winds picked up. We were now in a driving rain storm, the wind was blowing umbrella’s inside out and some parents were losing their umbrella’s and having to chase after them in the wind and it was getting really cold. I don’t know what the temperature was but I was now wet and cold and closing my umbrella because I couldn’t keep it open. And we had three more hours of a middle school track meet to watch.
In the midst of the rain, wind, cold, and utter chaos of middle school track I looked up and in the middle of the field were our middle school track coaches, Jackie Loar and Nick Wiedenhoft. Both were wearing their masks, hoods pulled over their heads, Jackie wearing shorts, soaked from the rain and fighting the wind. And yet, they were coaching our kids. Being positive even when middle school kids ran slowly or didn’t jump very high. They were blocking out the miserable conditions to encourage, to attempt to get middle school athletes to pay attention and not miss their events, they were educating through sports in the very worst of conditions.
I think that’s been our school year. In the midst of a pandemic in the very worst of conditions that have changed, again and again, our team in Worthington has risen to the challenge over and over again. It has been hard both physically and mentally. It has come with personal discomfort and challenge. And yet, our educators have consistently put the needs of students and families first and educated students no matter what challenges have been placed in front of them.
I’m not sure anyone outside of education will ever truly understand what our educators experienced this year but I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with our team in Worthington Schools. It’s been a rainy, windy, cold, ever changing year. And yet…time and time again they said yes to the hard things and made it a positive year for our students.
One more thing. At the very end of our track meet when we were soaked to the bone, cold and wet, the sun began to peek out through the clouds. It was brief but it signaled that the worst was behind us, that we had overcome and the best was yet to come!
We have awesome staff in Worthington Schools! As both Superintendent of Schools and a dad and uncle I’m forever appreciative for their investment in the lives of our kids.
Tonight we’ll celebrate 50 years of Worthington Lacrosse when the boys teams from Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne meet at Hamilton Field (TWHS). Back in 1972 John Galipault Sr. started the lacrosse program at Worthington High School. Since that time, the game of lacrosse has spread throughout Ohio and countless athletes in our community have learned important life lessons around teamwork, competition, striving for a shared goal, working hard, and sacrificing for one another. They’ve also built lifelong friendships and treasured memories.
On a personal level, my association with Worthington lacrosse began in 1983 when I purchased my first lacrosse stick (Brine Superlight) from Worthington Hills teacher and Worthington High School lacrosse coach Al Brady. I was able to play middle school lacrosse in Worthington for Coach Craig Gallagher and high school lacrosse for legendary Coach Chris Gallagher, better known as CG. (In 2016, I gave a TED Talk about CG’s profound and ongoing influence on my life.)
As a player in Worthington, I was able to play with great talents like Tim James. Tim was the first person I ever saw score a goal by shooting the ball behind his back. There was nothing Tim couldn’t do on a lacrosse field. (Tim’s son Luke will play for WKHS tonight.) I had the honor to play with both Kahoun brothers who went on to become college all-americans at Butler (Cory’s son Jake will play for TWHS tonight). In 1988, I was introduced to AC/DC’s Back in Black cassette tape on a lacrosse trip to Pittsburgh by Jeff Appel. (Jeff’s son Owen will be in the goal for TWHS tonight.)
When Worthington Kilbourne High School opened in 1992, a new tradition in Worthington lacrosse was born. Bill Wolford left Upper Arlington High School to become the first coach at Kilbourne and for 15+ years he added to the sport we love. When I became a teacher in Worthington Bill hired me to become an assistant coach for him. We had the opportunity to coach Ryan Sprague, Bryan Basom and a host of talented young men. In 2009, when Worthington Kilbourne won the D1 State Championship, I stood in the stands and cried as I watched coach Mike Riffee embrace his son Pat as the final whistle blew and the championship was secured.
Tonight, two equally talented teams will battle. They’re both coached by alumni from their school who care deeply about the sport and it’s place in our community (Collin Lisi and Brian Miller). When our athletes walk onto the field tonight they represent their respective schools and they represent all of us who once wore a Worthington Lacrosse jersey. They’re the current custodians of a great legacy. Both teams want to win their rivalry game and they’ll certainly play with intensity and passion. Over the years as our teams have competed they do so like brothers. Sometimes the passion boils over. But, when it is over both teams are part of the legacy of Worthington Lacrosse. A legacy that began 50 years ago in Worthington and has been important to many of us ever since.
Before the game tonight we’ll honor the contributions of John and Pam Galipault. John tragically passed away in 1993. But tonight Pam will join us and be escorted by CG onto the field. We’ll pay tribute to what Pam helped start here in Worthington. Something that has been very important in my life personally and in the lives of many in our community.
Our mission in Worthington Schools is to empower a community of learners who will change the world. We want our students to know that they can and will change the world in big and small ways. Helping our students internalize this mission is accomplished daily in our classrooms in conversations with our teachers and other trusted adults. Additionally, as a school district we have created visuals that are displayed at each school with current students sharing how they plan to change the world. Hopefully this takes an abstract mission and makes it more concrete and realistic to our students.
Our current “change the world” displays have been displayed in our schools for two years. One of the students who is featured in Bryce Presser. When the display was designed and his picture taken he was a young middle school student. I’ve walked by his picture and “tweeted” it out many times but I hadn’t met Bryce personally until recently.
Here’s the cool thing….Bryce really is changing the world! As part of his quest to earn his Eagle Scout badge (only 4% of scouts ever achieve this rank. It’s seriously elite.) Bryce decided to create book lending libraries for Worthington Estates, Slate Hill and Worthington Park. The project which he titled “Worthington Worthiness Library” is a collection of books focused on diversity and inclusion designed to help students see themselves in the literature they read. He built cabinets on casters so they could be wheeled in and out of classrooms. He then filled the cabinets (which in and of themselves were amazing with his attention to detail) with a significant collection of books. Last week Bryce presented the projects to each of the schools.
Bryce has changed a great deal since his picture was taken for our mission and vision displays. His hair has grown out, he has a different understanding of the world around him, and he is developing into a mature high school student. It’s so incredibly cool to see Bryce not just in print on our display but living our school district mission and vision in our community.
In Worthington Schools our students will change the world. Bryce Presser is an excellent example of that!
As we begin the final 8 weeks of this school year there is great optimism. We’re actively working to make every remaining day in this school year count and we’re planning for how we can best serve our students’ learning needs throughout the summer months.
Last April we started to realize that not only were we unlikely to return to in-person schooling for the 2019-2020 school year, we were equally unlikely to experience in-person learning during the summer of 2020. Our staff evaluated what was possible and rallied to offer our high school get-ahead courses in math and science, high school credit recovery, and smaller versions of our Summer Reading Camp, Literacy and Math Foundations, and Reading and Writing for English Learners intervention programs. We also partnered with 6Crickets to curate and offer virtual summer enrichment courses. All other programming was cancelled. We served approximately 470 students during the summer of 2020.
Planning for the summer of 2021 began during the late fall/winter surge in COVID cases, and despite the uncertainty, we committed to prioritizing in-person learning for our K-2 students. Leaders from central Ohio districts collaborated to create the BRIDGE to Achievement and Well-Being foundational framework with its pillars of
culture and climate
equity and accessibility
Using this foundational framework, Worthington has prioritized connecting students with summer opportunities in the Post-Pandemic Extended Learning Plan (see pages 12-13). Members of the Academic Achievement and Professional Learning (AAPL) team, in partnership with building principals and teachers throughout the district, have worked (and are continuing to work) to provide intervention to students who need assistance and to provide extension opportunities for families seeking extension. All programs are further designed through the lens of increasing a sense of belonging within the school community. We anticipate serving well over 1,500 students in the summer of 2021.
The 2021 summer programming window is June 7 – July 1, and there is an extended learning session July 6 – July 16 for high school students who need additional time for credit recovery. Summer speech language support will be offered July 6 – July 30. Please visit the 2021 Summer Programs webpage to learn about our mix of traditional and new learning opportunities. We are particularly proud to offer building-based intervention in our elementary schools and to provide transportation (if needed) for all district and building-level intervention programs, including high school credit recovery.
Online registration opens Monday, April 5 for enrichment and skill-building courses. Students enrolled in the federal school lunch program are eligible for discounts. Communication to families of students eligible for district-level intervention will be sent during the week of April 5 and online registration will open at that time. Communication to families of students eligible for elementary building-level intervention will be sent the week of April 12 and online registration will open at that time.
We are looking forward to eight weeks of “all-in” learning to finish the school year and hope you consider extending learning into the summer months.
Kelly Wegley, Director of Academic Achievement and Professional Learning
As we begin “All-In” schooling in Worthington today we’re excited! This is what school was designed to be. (Well, what school was designed to be with mitigation strategies in place such as masks, 3 feet of distancing, etc.) But with that in mind, we recognize that it’s been over a year since students have gone to school five days a week. Thus, it’s been over a year since our students have had to get up early each morning, over a year since they went to school and then had co-curricular activities in the evening and had homework to complete. A year is a long time and we’re concerned about the transition for our students.
As I’ve been thinking about this transition to everyday school, the analogy that comes to mind for me is starting a running program. For years I was a runner and would attempt to run each morning before work. As I trudged through the streets of Worthington I would see Colonial Hills Principal Sherri Berridge running with her dog, Instructional Coach Julie Payne gliding effortlessly by me, and Thomas Worthington teachers Tom Kaczmarek and Andy Cox taking up the entire sidewalk. Running for me was never easy and mostly it was because I would be consistent for a while and then take time off.
Starting up after taking time off was always a shock to my system. When running, I usually attempted to run four miles each day. After an extended break, I might start by trying to run a mile and it would hurt. Eventually, I may work up to two miles, then maybe over time, I’d work up to three or four miles. After a few tough weeks, my body would adapt, and while my runs were never easy, they became the norm.
We think going to school every day for our students may be similar. This Spring going every day and having homework in the evening will be a shock to the system. We understand that we can’t start back where we ended a year ago and expect our students will be able to handle it. Our teachers are cognizant that we’ll need to ease into every day schooling and even that may feel difficult for many. Over time our students will be able to handle more and eventually, we’ll get to a place where every day school is challenging but manageable.
Using the running analogy as we think about the next two months, our goal is not to come back and start with four miles every day. That’s likely not realistic for many students. Our goal is to start with a half-mile and slowly build back the stamina our students used to possess. By fall we hope to be running effortlessly like Julie Payne does.
We won’t be there quickly. We don’t need to be. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and that step starts today!
Worthington Schools is a community organization that is dedicated to meeting our mission of empowering a community of learners who will change the world. As an organization, we’re committed to providing consistent communication and promoting dialogue with our community.
With that in mind, tonight (3.15.21) we’ll release our Virtual State of the Schools presentation for 2021! It’s certainly been an unexpected, wild, controversial, crazy year. And, we’re not done yet…For State of the Schools this year we’re going to attempt to provide our community with some important information about our schools and then on each of the next several evenings, we’re going to release new stories via video that highlight our amazing students and staff members, who even during the pandemic, are thriving and doing really cool things.
It’s been a challenging school year and if you watch our video this evening we’ll attempt to address that in an honest way. We’ll then talk about what we believe will be our shared positive future. There are exciting changes ahead with new middle school learning spaces, feeder pattern changes leading to balanced high school enrollments by student count, socio-economics, and student diversity. We’ll touch on our response to the pandemic learning in our Bridge plan and our work with diversity, equity and inclusion. Finally, we’ll talk about finances and our next round of facility improvements. We’ll do all of this in just fifteen minutes.
Over the next two weeks, you’ll get to see some personal stories of students and staff members who are making a difference in our schools and in our community. Beginning this evening we’ll release a new video on Facebook, YouTube and our Worthington Schools website at 7:00 P.M. each night. You won’t want to miss them! Please share them widely on your social media and with your friends. Thanks for investing in Worthington Schools.
It’s been almost a full year since Governor Mike DeWine announced that school would be closing for a period of three weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday of that week last year, I was publicly saying that we would move forward with our annual Pancake Day as scheduled. By Friday all of Ohio was shut-down. Following the announcement of the original school closure, our team was in the office until 10:45 pm planning for the next several days. No one could have predicted the twists and turns we would face over the next 12 months or that we continue to face. Remote learning, what’s that? Hybrid learning? All-In? We’ve had to learn and grow together and adapt.
Our students, families, and school staff have absorbed the challenges and changes of the last year incredibly. Support, flexibility, and perseverance are all words I would use to describe our community’s collaborative work in dealing with COVID-19. There have been bumps in the road and disagreements, but each person has strived to do the best they can for Worthington. It shows in our words and actions. However, as we moved through this school year, there was always a sense that we would repeat the initial experience we had in March of 2020.
In schools and school leadership, working through crises is part of the job. The difference between this crisis and every other one that I have ever been a part of is the continuance of it. Typically, there is a cycle that eventually has a level of closure. COVID-19 has never allowed us to get to that point.
For schools, the correct path forward is still a national debate. That’s been true in our community as well as surrounding communities. There is conflicting guidance from different medical groups as well as between neighboring health departments. Some items are health orders that we must follow and some items are recommendations. As a local control state, Ohio has left many decisions to the local school district and this has created a community split on the best path for our kids. Everyone wants what is best for our children. Unfortunately, everyone believes what is best is what they have determined for themselves.
We’re beginning to see hope. Our teachers will have been vaccinated and in late March we’re going to reopen our schools to all students every day. We’re not back to normal but it’s critical that we create academic and social-emotional structures that help our students see success. Additionally, we’re beginning to look forward and create plans to help our students recover from this difficult time. Our plans will focus on 1) social-emotional well-being; 2) academic achievement; 3) culture and climate; and 4) equity and accessibility. By prioritizing these four core points, we want to say in a public way that academic advancement post-pandemic requires a holistic response, with an equal commitment to capturing lost learning opportunities within a diverse group of students and scenarios, while also recognizing mental health impacts.
It’s too early to be able to be reflective on what is permanently changed. We will spend time learning from this experience. A year has passed. It’s been a tough year on many fronts. But in Worthington, our shared future is a positive one and as a school district, we’re committed to partnering with our community as we collaboratively strive to empower a community of learners who will change the world.
It’s hard to believe that it’s now been almost a full year since Governor Mike DeWine announced that school would be closing for a period of three weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic (three weeks turned into months and months turned into almost a year of on again off again in person learning.) But here we are and we’re now at a place that due to the advancements of science our staff will have been fully vaccinated and in late March (22nd) we’re going to reopen our schools to all students every day. We’re excited for this day but since many of our students will have only been in a physical school building for 40 days over the last 12 months the change creates a level of trepidation for even students who are excited about the change.
So – here we are! We’re planning for another big transition in an already unprecedented school year. To help students and families in making this change Lara Ruffing, our mental health team leader for our district, Toya Spencer our Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Trish Laughman and Linnea Gallo two of our instructional coaches created a video full of helpful ideas and honest reflections.
Because all four of these leaders are also district parents with kids across different age and grade levels. They can intimately relate to the endless thoughts running through your heads about making the switch to all in learning here in a few weeks. IT’S BEEN A YEAR since our kids have been in school full time. So much has changed and happened along the way. And in a year often based in survival mode, we may be thinking, how in the heck do we get our kids ready for this? How do we get ourselves ready for this?!? Do they have 5 days worth of clean clothes that fit?! (Many teenage boys may not) Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much?
Their hope is to informally share some thoughts, ideas and conversation starters for you and your household to consider as we move forward, and to remind all of us that we are in this together and can give permission for the inevitable bumps along the way.
Please know that as we talk with you today, our staff is working so hard to prepare for another ‘first day of school’ and build comfort and community within our buildings. They will work diligently to scaffold our students and help them to feel comfortable with re-entry.
25 minutes of video is a lot these days. But, don’t be scared off by the time commitment. It’s worth the investment of your time for sure.