GALION — Dealing with the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic has forced educators to make many adjustments over the past 10 months.
From the time last March when school buildings in Ohio were closed and students were required to engage in remote learning full-time, it’s been a constant learning process for everyone involved.
Galion City Schools Superintendent Jennifer Allerding said while administrators and teachers were forced to scramble to prepare students for remote learning, she believes the district was in a good position to make the change in a short period of time.
“Last year we were sitting here at the office and we found out that in two days children were going to be learning remotely,” Allerding said. “Luckily, here in Galion, we’re in a pretty good spot as far as technology is concerned. We had already invested in a learning management system and our kids were already familiar with that. For our kiddos at the middle school and the high school, I think that transition was a little more seamless than for other districts because we already had that in place for a few years now. Our (elementary school) teachers prepared packets for their students to take home.”
“It certainly wasn’t an easy time for anyone. Families had to adjust everything that they were doing and help the little ones at home.”
Allerding said the district staff handled the “quick transition” well.
“I’m proud of the teachers and how they were able to get everything together in basically a 24-hour time span,” she said. “We continued to feed our kids throughout that time. I think that we did a nice job with it, but certainly we found areas in which we could do better. We did learn a lot about what we could do differently moving into this year (2020-2021).”
Administrators and teachers used the summer months to take stock of what they learned from remote learning in the spring and developed plans for the new academic year.
“We were entering a year that was different from any other year, so we decided to take a team approach to it,” Allerding said. “We surveyed our teachers, our students, our families. We developed a reopening team that included our teachers, members of OAPSE (union) — our bus drivers, secretaries, maintenance employees. We had representation of all those people at the table including parents and two different groups of students to discuss what this year would look like.”
Allerding said it was refreshing and informative to hear the different perspectives offered by each group represented. As a result, they were able to develop clear goals for the district.
“Our goal was to have students in the classroom as much as we could and create as safe an environment as we could,” Allerding said. “We also had some sub-committees under that reopening team. Each of the buildings had its own reopening team. They were looking at safety within each building and developed plans that work for their unique setting. We also developed educational plans for each building. We sat down with teachers from each building and mapped out what each level was going to look like, how we were going to operate, and communicate with families.
“We were able to take much more of a collaborative approach with the time we had during the summer, being mindful of all parties for this year. When you have everyone involved and hear everyone’s perspective, it certainly makes things run a little bit smoother.”
Allerding pointed to two major positives the district has experienced in the face of the pandemic. The first is that she’s been encouraged by the fact that students have been able to attend classes in person for a majority of the year.
“The procedures and protocols that we have in place in the district are pretty intense,” she said. “At the high school, they disinfect every seat and desk in between every group of kids coming in. So, at the high school, the classrooms are disinfected seven to eight times a day. Every night, every classroom and every bus is sprayed with disinfectant. That’s added some work, but we’ve been able to keep kids in school. Any day we have with kids in class is a good day.”
The district has and continues to operate on what is called the “4 of 5 Plan.” That means students are in the classroom Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, with remote learning on Wednesday.
The second major positive Allerding pointed to is the passage of a 7.73 mills, 5-year renewal levy in the general election last November.
“The community responded in our favor and we were very thankful, because we know that times are tight for everybody and everyone is going through difficulty,” she said. “Our community supports us in so many ways and we’re proud to serve the students and their families.”
The successful renewal of the levy will continue to provide $1.2 million annually for Galion City Schools, which amounts to 5.7% of the general fund operating budget.
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