CAMDEN Preble Shawnee Board of Education members discussed the recently announced three-week closure of all public and private schools in Ohio due to the coronavirus at their monthly meeting Thursday.
Governor Mike DeWine announced, during a press conference Thursday afternoon, that all schools would remain closed between close of school day Monday, March 16 and start of school on Monday, April 6.
“This has been a crazy, crazy last couple of days,” Shawnee Superintendent Matt Bishop acknowledged at the top of Thursday’s meeting. “When people would ask me a question yesterday or today, I’d say, ‘Well, this is my answer right now, but give it an hour.’”
Bishop said that he was impressed with the way state legislators had approached the situation, however, including their decision to issue the closure order.
“For the last few days, we’ve felt pretty confident that the Governor was going to issue a directive to close the schools,” Bishop said.
Preble Shawnee Schools, Bishop announced during the meeting, would have their last day Friday, March 13. All school activities, including sporting events, between March 16 and April 3 will be canceled or postponed.
Logistics & attendance
The first Monday of the closure period, Bishop said, will be used as a calamity day — days typically reserved for closures due to extreme weather and other issues — while the remainder of that week and the following one will be designated “blizzard bag days.”
Students and employees will not be expected to work during the last five days of the closure, as that week corresponds to Shawnee’s already scheduled spring break. Teachers and administrators will continue to work during the rest of the closure period, however, with teachers preparing packets containing worksheets, assignment sheets, and other materials students can use to complete assignments from home.
Lessons and materials for the first three days of the closure period have already been prepared, according to Bishop; instructors will spend a good deal of their time during the remainder of the break preparing materials for the other six days.
Assignments will be geared toward being able to be submitted by phone, Bishop said; if the closure winds up lasting more than three weeks, other options — such as signing out ChromeBooks or iPads to students without access to home computers — will be considered.
“We’re going to try and be as creative as possible with the learning process,” Bishop said. “This is not ideal, but it’s an emergency situation. We want to make sure we get through this, and that we stay safe and healthy along the way.”
Others present at the meeting raised concerns about whether days missed during the closure will have to be made up at the end of the school year.
Bishop stressed that the use of calamity and blizzard bag days would make this unnecessary as long as the closure doesn’t last more than three weeks. He also said that while nothing official has been announced concerning absences or the closure’s effect on the scheduling of state-mandated tests, it’s expected that state authorities will be lenient concerning the extraordinary nature of the situation.
Bishop and board president Julie Singleton acknowledged the effect the closure will have on students’ high school experience, especially graduating seniors.
“It’s not lost on us that this is a major deal for our students, and for seniors in particular,” Bishop said. “This is a huge part of their high school experience that’s unfortunately being lost.”
Singleton also raised concerns about the ability of students without access to the internet to complete and turn in assignments. Bishop said that teachers may have to create additional “blizzard bag” packets for those students.
Preble Shawnee and National Trail school districts announced via Facebook on Friday, meanwhile, that free Spectrum broadband and wi-fi service will be made available to households with K-12 and/or college students without existing service for 60 days. Interested parties may call 844-488-8395.
Bishop addressed questions about whether school district employees other than teachers and administrators will lose pay during the closure.
“We’re going to try to make as many people whole as possible,” Bishop said. “If anybody is willing to come in and work, we’re going to have things for them to do. We don’t want anybody to think ‘I’m going to lose my job’ during these three weeks.”
Shawnee FFA member Jacob Doty asked about students who rely on school lunch programs for food during the week. Shawnee Special Education director Jennifer Taulbee said that local libraries and churches have volunteered to serve as food stations.
Finally, Bishop expressed appreciation for the difficult task faced by those working to contain and treat the epidemic.
“There are only so many air ventilators,” Bishop said. “And only so many medical professionals who can work without being infected themselves.”
Preble Shawnee Board of Education meetings typically take place the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Board of Education office, located at 124 Bloomfield St. in Camden.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @improperenglish