Director of 21st Century Curriculum Karen Moore said that this fall, Orange City School District students will have a new and improved version of virtual learning.
The quick switch to online classes this past spring resulted in “crisis teaching,” she said of Gov. Mike DeWine’s order closing buildings due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This fall, however, the teachers and administrators have planned a more efficient process, which will include more face-to-face time between students and teachers when the district begins its total virtual learning plan for the 2020-2021 academic year.
The district has been gathering feedback throughout the summer from surveys, calls and emails from parents and student meetings to see what needs to be improved for effective virtual learning this fall. Superintendent Lynn Campbell announced in late July that the district would be fully virtual for the fall semester, but wants to have a blended learning model sooner if possible while taking necessary precautions for COVID-19.
“[The Cuyahoga County Board of Health] said that there are three things that we really need to get this virus under control. We need to have ample testing, we need to have a vaccine and we need to have treatment,” Dr. Campbell said at the Aug. 10 Orange Board of Education meeting. According to the county board of health, none of these precautions are in place.
Each building principal gave an update on what their virtual schedule will look like. Principal of the Orange Inclusive Preschool Christine Goudy said that the schedule will be similar to the regular schedule with morning and afternoon cohorts. Three-year-olds and young 4-year-olds will take part in morning classes while 4-year-olds and young 5-year-olds will take part in the afternoon, she said.
Ms. Goudy said that there will be recorded lessons and there will be “live circle time” in the morning and afternoon with activities about the weather and counting. The rest of the time will be spent in small groups where the children can receive specialized instruction.
Renee Tuttle, principal of Moreland Hills Elementary School, said that teachers will be especially careful to limit screen time for the young children. The classes will be half the typical size with a morning and afternoon cohort.
Everyone logs in at 8 a.m. for attendance and to hear the daily plans, Mrs. Tuttle said. There are synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities in Google Classroom and the typical topics such as phonics, reading, writing, math, science and social studies will be taught. Grades four and five have four 35-minute blocks for reading, math, writing and science and social studies. She said that a “specials” day will also rotate every sixth day so students can take part in music, gym, art and library activities.
Brady Middle School Principal Brian Frank said that school will start at 8 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m. There is a four-day block schedule that will rotate back to day one on Friday. Students will be in two core classes and two special area classes, all of which are 40 minutes.
Mr. Frank said that the school will continue its PRIDE time, which is a period to help meet the developmental, social, emotional and academic needs of each student. He said there will also be personalized learning time and plenty of opportunities to ask questions of teachers.
High School Principal Paul Lucas said that classes will start at 9 a.m. On Mondays, students will have every class and they will have three to four classes per day the rest of the week. Each day starts and ends with office hours with teachers, Dr. Lucas said.
He said that Megan Petronsky, a member of the guidance department, is working with seniors for college applications. Dr. Lucas said that he recently received an email from CollegeBoard because they need to determine how many schools are meeting virtually and in person as they draft the AP exams for this year.
Director of Student Support Services Kersh Naidu said that the administrators and teachers have been working all summer to ensure that every child’s needs are met. She said that the case manager that is assigned to a student will check in regularly to ensure that the student is successful in the online program.
“We are also working with our teachers union and others to ensure that by appointment, potentially, we can provide therapeutic services to students who have not been able to access their therapy during the unplanned absence that began in March,” Dr. Naidu said. “We are keenly aware that our children need those, access to therapy like occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, in order to be successful in school.”
Gifted and Curriculum Coordinator Sheli Amato said that COVID-19 has taken the motto of “meet kids where they are and give them what they need” to a whole new level. She said that the district will continue to provide gifted services despite the online nature of school.
BOE President Beth Wilson-Fish said that the teachers also have access to more tools now that they can use the classrooms, unlike last spring. Mrs. Moore said that last spring, some of their software gave the district a free premium version, so the teachers learned to use it and will continue using it this fall. For example, students can use Flipgrid to create a short video to answer a question or EdPuzzle, where you can take a video and stop at periodic points to ask questions. Mrs. Moore also said that Technology Coordinator Jennette Irish-Glass ordered document cameras so teachers can show a document, such as a page of notes or a book, to the students.
“We need to have teachers as much as possible and as many as possible on campus, in the classrooms. Our buildings are big enough and the numbers aren’t that large so we can space them,” board member Jeff Leikin said. “They can have the resources of the classroom and the school district available to them and they can have the ability to focus better without the distractions that come along with the virtual teaching from the home model.”
Board member Melanie Weltman said that she is looking for more information on how robust the virtual curriculum is. She also wanted to ensure that students have access to their teachers and other support staff. Mrs. Moore said that teachers are aware that some topics were not covered in school last year due to the pandemic and students will be returning this fall with some gaps, a concept now known as the “COVID slide.”
“We’re starting the year with having assessments where our teachers will really find out what did the students miss, how can we catch them up and really building that review into the new lessons that will be created and designed,” Mrs. Moore said.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 24 at 6 p.m.