We’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