School in Worthington During COVID-19

91296695_3245300522165821_6204825070825635840_nWe’ve entered Phase 2 of this extended school closure due to COVID-19.  Governor DeWine has extended our closure until at least May 1st and it feels unlikely as of today that we will get to come back to school this year.  We’ve never been more proud of our team in Worthington than we are today. 

The reality in Worthington, and in all surrounding school districts, is that three weeks ago we sent our teachers home with just a laptop and the charge to keep learning going for students, to connect with students, to love them, and to do it all remotely.  We’ve been blown away with what we see from our educators. The quality of learning is amazing! Their effort has been inspiring! I believe our teachers are doing more with less than could ever be expected or asked.  

Our food service team is choosing to put themselves at risk while serving hundreds of meals to students each day.  Members from transportation have volunteered to drive buses to take meals into neighborhoods and our maintenance team continues to manage closed school playgrounds and upkeep facilities.  We’re proud of our team effort.

As we enter Phase 2 of remote learning we continue to believe that “less is more.”  The recent passage of HB 197 states that schools are to “keep students actively engaged in learning opportunities for the remainder of the year.”  There’s no intent from the State level, or the district, that we attempt to cover the standards in the same manner as if we saw our students every day.  There’s no way for that to occur on a consistent basis with all that students and families are dealing with at home. When school resumes, we’ll adjust our instruction to address potential gaps in learning from this extended closure.  I recognize that there is great fear and anxiety that students are falling behind or won’t be prepared for the next grade level. In this time of crisis schools are closed everywhere. Nothing will be as it always has been and we’ll adapt to our new reality when students return to school.    

As a school district we are caught in the in-between of families who think they “want more” and families who cannot do one more thing.  I am grateful for your partnership as we navigate this journey. For now, as we continue remote learning with our students during this 4th quarter, we’re asking our teachers to focus on solidifying and enriching topics and skills to which students have already been introduced since it’s very difficult for teachers to expect all students to be able to learn all new standards at home and without their teacher with them.  That said, we believe learning must go forward for our students and thus in phase 2 our teachers will determine how to best make sure students learn the important overarching standards imperative for the course the students are enrolled in. You should see both review to keep skills sharp and new learning to help students advance.

Our teachers are learning, growing and getting better everyday.  They’re learning what works and what doesn’t work. While our expectations for teachers are consistent, each teacher has a level of autonomy on how they design their work and help their students learn.  This can be difficult for families but realistically our teachers are all working from home and they don’t have the luxury of a well designed online curriculum. What is happening is not homeschooling. It is not distance learning. It is not online schooling.There are philosophies and research guiding those ways of teaching and learning; theories and pedagogies that are enacted in intentional ways. To be honest, what we’re doing today is teaching and learning in COVID-19. This is not business as usual and it is unethical to act as if it could be. No one can (or should) expect the COVID-19 schooling happening at home to be anything close to usual.  We’re asking our teachers and families simply to “do the best you can.”

We’ve been wrestling with important topics that will be divisive.  How should grades be handled during this time of COVID-19? How will colleges evaluate grades during this national shut-down of schools (Harvard weighed in on this)? We understand how important this question is to many and we’re wrestling with it from all angles and attempting to make decisions that are in the best interests of the majority of our students.  How do we recognize our seniors? How will a senior know they are on track to graduate? What are our back-up plans for graduation for the class of 2020? How do we handle Varsity letters for Spring sports?  What about the Phoenix Lottery and 6th grade traditions? My commitment to you is that we’re actively working on each of these issues and will be communicating on each of them in the next few weeks. Each day we learn more and will attempt to do more.  

Our hope for us as a school district is that even remotely we live out our value which we state as “Be Kind to Kids.”  We want every child in our school district to know that even though we are not physically together that they are cared for and loved by the adults in their school. 

These are hard times.  There are no easy answers or simple solutions.  Please communicate with your child’s teachers or your school principal if you have a need.  If you need a chromebook the school can get you one. If you need more schoolwork, or less schoolwork, we’ll attempt to make that happen for you. If you know someone who needs meals let us know and we’ll make sure they get them.  

Continue to take care of yourself and each other. We are all in this together!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent & Angie Adrean, Chief Academic Officer

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The Great WoTown Backyard Campout

EUoLXWHXQAE0v43In the age of COVID-19, social distancing, and closed schools we’re all struggling a bit to find our way.  It’s an uncertain time and while watching Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton each day at 2:00 P.M. brings us all together in a small way, it’s not the connection most of us are looking for.

In Worthington our school district is looking for ways to provide hope and positive engagement for our kids and families.  I’ve told our team that “I hope when this is all over our students and parents say, ‘They tried that remote learning thing and did o.k. but man it was cool how clear it was that they cared about my child and about us as a family.’”  So far I think we’re on track. If you go to our district Facebook page you’ll see videos from the Granby and WKHS teachers, you’ll see Bluffsview teachers in the neighborhoods, you’ll see a Worthington Park picture collage of messages to students, you’ll see our music teachers singing together featured on the morning news, and on and on and on.  There are really great connection points going on in Worthington Schools.

We endeavor to be a school district that’s about kids and the community.  Several of our EUoLawGXsAE01Poelementary physical education teachers organized tonight’s “Great WoTown Backyard Campout.”  It’s going to be a beautiful early April evening and our hope is that families all across Worthington pitch a tent in the backyard (or the family room if you’d rather stay inside), roast some marshmallows, throw some cornholl, and enjoy one another’s company in a fun and adventurous way.   Mr. Smith from Liberty has had his tent up for several days now and I think he may have said he won’t sleep inside the house until school opens back up. I can’t confirm that, but that’s the rumor I heard…

We’ll be sitting out by the fire tonight in the backyard at our house because who wouldn’t want to be part of The Great WoTown Backyard Campout.  (I’m not certain we’ll actually campout, but maybe we’ll just let the kids sleep in the backyard.) I hope you’ll be part of this fun, unique Worthington evening!  

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Many Small Great Things

unnamed (5)Every school year is an adventure.  It’s full of twists and turns and no two years present the same challenges.  Even with that in mind, in a million years, I couldn’t have predicted in Week 32 of this school year we’d all be working from home, attempting to educate 10,600 students who were also at home and with no end in sight to this arrangement.  Crazy times! I hope you’re hanging in there.  

In Worthington we began remote learning last week.  As I looked around the school district, I saw one small great thing happen after another.  We had so many teachers, principals and support staff finding creative ways to reach out and connect with students.  I personally started each day watching the KMS morning announcements on YouTube. We had several music collaborations put together by band and general music teachers that were really special to see and hear.  We had physical education teachers on video providing instruction in how students can stay active at home. We had Worthington Hills teacher Greg Ross attempt to break the internet with his rap music and several young teachers singing and dancing on video that made my family smile.  We had a two principal parade and class meeting after class meeting where students could connect, laugh and engage with peers on Zoom. I’ve never been prouder of our staff than I was last week in the way they worked to engage students. We’re not where we will be with our remote learning as this is all new for us.  But, our Worthington team is making the best of a difficult situation. So many small great things!

As you know our schools have been greatly impacted by the response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and have already transitioned in many ways to accommodate the directives from Governor Mike DeWine and his team. 

Last Friday we received additional guidance – by the governor’s signing of House Bill 197 – on other areas affecting our students of which you should be aware.

  • All K-12 standardized testing and state report card requirements are waived for this school year. 
  • Our local schools were granted the authority to graduate any student who is on track to graduate. This permits schools to grant a diploma to any student that the school district has determined is on track to graduate. We will continue to communicate with our senior students and their parents. Our guidance counselors are available to answer any questions about whether your student is currently on track to graduate. 
  • All districts are permitted to continue providing students with lunch.Worthington Schools Food Service is providing breakfast/lunch pick up at three locations on weekdays. Families can pick up meals between 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the following locations: Thomas Worthington High School, Worthington Kilbourne High School, Slate Hill Elementary.
  • Our local governments – including our school board – may now opt to hold remote/virtual meetings but the public must still have access. While we have the option, we may also meet in person. Regardless, we will notify the public (as always) as to how we will proceed. 
  • Voting in the March 17, 2020 election was extended to April 28, 2020. Voting will occur by mail only. To obtain a vote by mail application, you can call our county board of election office at 614.525.3100 and have one sent to you or you can visit their website and print an application https://vote.franklincountyohio.gov/ 

Finally, I know these times are tough. They are tough in many ways. We see that. We have families with loved ones on the front lines taking care of those who are sick. We have families with lost income. Changes are happening so quickly and with such a big impact. While we cannot take that hardship away, we can support each other throughout all of this. Know that we are here to support you and your child. 

We heard this afternoon from Governor DeWine that Ohio schools will remain closed until at least May 1st.  We will do our best to keep you informed and to work through the changes as they come our way. The most up-to-date information can always be found on our website at www.worthington.k12.oh.us

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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Extended Closure: End of Week Two

unnamed (4)A few years ago I was part of a year long class with 30 Ohio Superintendents put on by the Center for Creative Leadership.  In one of our sessions, we took personality tests and then without names the results were posted on the wall. From left to right went the most introverted in our class of 30 to the most extroverted.  When the instructor placed the results on the wall one result was far to the left of all the others. I thought to myself, “that person is in trouble.” Of course, when the instructor revealed the results, that person was me.

Naturally, I am an introvert (I’m also a Gen Xer) and thus I joke that I’ve been training for social distancing my whole life.  Even with my natural tendencies, the last two weeks have been very strange. Ms. Adrean, our Chief Academic Officer, captured my thoughts last week when she wrote, “I keep saying to myself and others, “This seems so surreal.”  And then I remember, no, it’s real! And although our present reality comes with uncertainty, we will overcome many obstacles by coming together (virtually, of course!) and supporting each other – for our students, our families, and each other.”

We’re all living in surreal times but my hope is that at the end of week two of this closure you are doing well. My hope is that you, your children, and your family are healthy. My hope is that you are able to focus on the most important things during this time, namely the well-being of your family and those you care most about. 

With that hope, also comes uncertainty and concern. All families in our community are being directly affected by the seismic shifts that have occurred over the past three weeks. There are parents that are not sure where their next paycheck is coming from. There are families that are grappling with caring for a medically fragile loved one and the potential risk that person is in. There are neighbors caring for first-responder children while trying to support their older children with remote learning. We are in the midst of an event that none of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. For me personally, many within our school community have shared their individual circumstance. They have shared their angst, fear, and the uncertainty this event has created in their lives. Even within that uncertainty, they have also shared their solidarity, hope, and faith in each other. 

If you have listened to Governor Mike DeWine’s daily press conferences over the last several weeks, every day he reinforces that we are in this together. I want to echo these sentiments. In Worthington Schools, we are here to support our students, families, and community during this extended closure and public health event. 

As we navigate this together, to ensure our educational mission, there are several services that we will continue to provide our students and families.  Over the course of the closure we will continue to provide food services, remote learning, mental health/well-being support, and technology support. We will provide regular updates as we have new information to allow families to plan and adjust. These services are needed to continue to support our students, families, and community. We want our families to know these structures are in place and will continue to be throughout this closure. 

Additionally, we know that we cannot plan for every individual circumstance. We will continue to be flexible and adaptable to meet individual needs as they arise. Our most important concern is the care, welfare, and well-being of our families. Please reach out to our district leadership, principals, school counselors, or teachers. We will do our best to meet your needs as soon as possible. 

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Playgrounds, Turf, and Social Distancing

ET_dDmwWoAAnOuyIn Worthington Schools we’ve always attempted to be a good community partner by allowing our school facilities to be used by the community.  Thus our school playgrounds, tennis courts, running tracks and turf fields are open for community use whenever school activities are not utilizing the facilities.

When Governor DeWine issued the recent “Stay at Home” order he asked that all playgrounds be closed and that as people seek recreation they do so with appropriate social distancing.  In Worthington Schools we’re now attempting to be a good community partner by closing our facilities to the public.

All school playgrounds are closed.  The big-toys have been wrapped in caution tape and there is signage coming that will indicate that the playgrounds are closed.  In addition, we’ve begun removing basketball backboards because large groups of students and/or adults are gathering to play together on the courts and our facilities are being used in ways that don’t respect social distancing.

For the same reasons we locked the fencing surrounding our running tracks and turf fields.  While we would have chosen to leave the tracks open, large groups have been gathering on the turf fields and in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 we can’t allow our facilities to be used in this way. (Please be forewarned, many adults and students have been jumping the locked six foot fence to still get into the turf.  The gates are locked and thus, this constitutes trespassing. We’ve had to ask the police to regularly patrol the area.)

When this is all over our facilities will go back to being open for community use.  In the meantime we’re working as a school district to respect the order from Governor DeWine and to help flatten the curve.  Please seek recreation in ways that respect social distancing and please refrain from using school playgrounds.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Remote Learning

ETbdVzMXgAAiuDWIt’s said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  In Worthington, our transition from a brick and mortar school district to one helping 10,600 students learn remotely begins tomorrow.  Make no mistake, this is a massive transition! There’s no question that our students access resources online already. They practice and learn via computer-based programs, they read textbooks online, turn in assignments and documents via digital workflows, and communicate with teachers and peers via digital devices.  In the course of our normal school week technology plays a major role in every student’s life.

But with that said, we’re not an online learning institution. Our teachers are trained in helping the students who are physically in their classroom and our schools are designed to be places of interaction and working together.  Since Governor DeWine closed all schools, our teachers in Worthington have been working to design learning modules and lessons for students to complete while at home. They’ve been learning new tools, collaborating with one another, creating read-alouds, and attempting to determine how much work is enough and how much may be too much.  They’ve done all this without the ability to gather and learn together. I’ve been incredibly proud of our educators and the amount of work they have put in just to get to this point.

Last week was designated as downtime for our students.  We all needed it! Teachers will be reaching out to students and families via email by tomorrow to share the plans for their classroom.  Some teachers have already done so and some may be waiting to do so until tomorrow. We’re cognizant that families have undergone major transitions and are working to create a new normal at home.  Our teachers are doing the same. I’d ask that you’re patient with this new learning process for the next few weeks. This is likely going to be really difficult and every family experience will be different. In some cases, I would predict that remote learning is not going to go well right away.  In some cases, teachers may misjudge what students are capable of and assign more work than is possible. In other cases, it may be the opposite. Certainly, there is going to need to be a period of time where teachers determine what tools work best with their students and what doesn’t work as well as they thought it might.  We’re committed as a school district to get better at remote learning every week that we do it. But it’s not possible to make the transition we’ve made without many, many challenges. Students will likely experience frustrations and challenges. Teachers will too! As we progress along this journey together please communicate with your teacher about what’s working for you and what’s not working for you.

We’ve provided some guidance to our teachers and here’s what you can expect:

“Grades should be maintained at the current level and not be impacted negatively due to this school closure.  Please do not assign grades for new learning over this extended period in order to avoid penalizing students for circumstances beyond their control.  Keep in mind remote learning may be unstructured. Assignments should be supporting and reinforcing the teaching and learning that has already taken place in the classroom.  Please keep in mind that students have multiple courses and will be limited in their ability to receive supported and scaffolded instruction.  They also may have additional responsibilities at home. 

For the two week instructional period starting on March 24, a fair expectation for student time may be:

  • At the secondary level, a maximum of 30-45 minutes, 3 times a week per secondary course 
  • At the elementary level, in addition to  independent reading every day, work with reading/writing/math
    • an integrated* maximum of 30 minutes, 3 times a week for grades K-2    OR 
    • an integrated* 30-45 minutes, 3 times a week for grades 3-6
  • *By integrated, we do not mean 30-45 minutes per content area.  Rather, a self-contained or departmentalized teacher may create a reading assignment using a social studies text, etc.  Teams could coordinate this effort.”

We’re living in uncertain times.  It’s not clear how long our extended closure will last but we believe it will likely last longer than the April 6th return date we currently have.  During this closure, we’ll be working to support our students and families as best as we can. As we’re all learning and growing together there will be a great deal of trial and error. We’ll all need kind, constructive feedback if we’re going to improve.  As a school district, we want to help every child learn as much as we possibly can even though schools are closed. We’ve asked our teachers simply to do the best they can.  I’m confident that they will.

First and foremost, please be safe as a family.  Do the schoolwork that you can do. If it’s too much during this time just tell your child’s teacher.  Your health and safety are the number one priority.

Trent Bowers, Superintendent

 

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You don’t know what you got till it’s gone

CindThis winter I received lots of social media feedback from some young men at Worthington Kilbourne High School about the fact that we had not had any “snow days.”  These young men seemed to think that anytime the temperature dropped below forty degrees it may be cause for a day off school and they didn’t hesitate to share their thoughts with me.

I went to high school in the late 80’s and so I relate much of life to the lyrics from songs performed by the immortal hairbands of my era.  Even though we’re only a few days into our extended closure I can hear the screeching voices of Tom Keifer, Eric Brittingham, Jeff LaBar and Fred Coury, the members of the band Cinderella as they sing “Don’t know what you got till it’s gone…don’t know what you got till it’s gone, gone, gone…

I’ve talked with ten different Worthington kids over the past three days and all of them said the same thing, “I wish we were back in school.”  Many of them admitted that a week or two ago they thought they wanted to be off school but now that they actually can’t be back it stinks. They miss their friends, their sports, their teachers. They miss small things like sitting in the library and talking at their table while they try to sneak food when Mrs. Poleway isn’t looking.  They miss big things like their baseball games and their winter percussion. They miss being in school.

As an adult, I can relate.  By the end of last week I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  My calendar was jammed packed from morning until night and I was dreaming of a break.  All of a sudden my calendar is clear and I’m not sure what to do with myself. I’m already wishing for the action, the problems to solve, and the meetings to attend.

I believe we can relate most of life to an 80’s hairband song and today many of us can relate to Cinderella’s song. You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.  

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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