Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Thursday announcement that schools across the state would begin an extended, three-week spring as COVID-19 continues to spread has forced school districts into uncharted waters.
Under the current mandate, schools must close by day’s end on Monday, March 16, and they won’t be allowed to resume until at least Monday, April 6. That timeframe is subject to change with the ever-fluid nature of the virus outbreak, however.
“We have to take this action,” DeWine said in a press conference Thursday. “We have to do everything we can to have an interruption, we have to do everything we can to slow down the spread of this virus. We know that it will continue to spread, but slowing it down will enable our health care providers —doctors and hospitals — to stay up with the medical problems that this virus is causing.”
DeWine’s mandate has sent district leaders scrambling to formulate a contingency plan for their students. The Olentangy Local School District (OLSD), Delaware County’s largest school district, issued a statement from Superintendent Mark Raiff following the governor’s mandate to briefly highlight how OLSD will operate over the closure.
“Closing school buildings does not mean that class is not in session, except for our scheduled spring break,” Raiff states in the release. “The district can transition from an in-school to a distance learning environment.”
Raiff adds students should use the devices they typically use at home to complete schoolwork. For those students who do not have access to a wifi-enabled device or the internet, Raiff said they will “receive accommodations.” It is unclear what those accommodations might be, but the release said teachers will reach out to parents to assess needs. The release went on to say teachers will be utilizing learning platforms that are already familiar to staff and students.
More information will be shared with parents by the end of the day on Monday, and students will be briefed during the school day on the plan moving forward.
“District teachers will share more information with parents of their students regarding distance learning by the end of the day on Monday, March 16. Please note that a distance-learning day does not mirror an in-school day,” Raiff states. “Students will not be constrained by traditional class hours, and course work may be adjusted to be better suited for at-home learning.
“During this rapidly changing situation, we will continue to be proactive in our efforts to learn more and act accordingly. The district is exploring options for meal distribution, and we are also working in earnest to address how we will continue to support students with individualized education plans (IEPs),” he adds.
Raiff goes on to describe the current situation as “an unprecedented challenge for everyone in our community. It is also an opportunity for us to come together as One Olentangy. In the days and weeks ahead, we must all show a level of grace and patience as we adapt to this extended, yet temporary, change to our everyday lives. Let us all be an example of how to handle a crisis and prevail.”
On Friday, Raiff released another statement addressing some of the common questions being asked by the community. Likely the most common among them is whether the district will plan to add additional days to the school year. Raiff said the district’s current plan does not require it to additional days. However, the district is still waiting to learn more about state testing, which could impact the district schedule.
Other frequently asked questions included the status of graduation day and the status of school-provided meals. Raiff said that at this time, all graduation plans remain the same. As for the meals, he said the meals will continue, and the district is currently discussing methods of distribution. An update on those distribution plans will be provided soon.
Like most everything in these current times, all plans and policies are subject to change in a moment’s notice as the full scope of the COVID-19 outbreak continues to progress. To stay up to date on the district’s plans, visit its website at www.olentangy.k12.oh.us.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.