NEW PARIS — National Trail Local School District is “off and running with online instruction,” administrators said at the district’s monthly board of education meeting Monday, March 23.
According to elementary school principal Ed Eales, teachers have been staying in contact with students using resources such as Facebook groups, iPads provided by the district, and online video conferencing programs like Zoom.
“Today I was on Zoom with 41 first graders and their teachers,” Eales said.
Teachers have been able to communicate with around 85 percent of elementary school kids using these methods, according to Eales. Eales stressed the importance of maintaining some form of face-to-face interaction between students and teachers.
“It’s my expectation that they’ll continue to maintain contact with the kids,” Eales said of the elementary school faculty. “I tell them, you have to have contact – they need to hear your voice and they need to see you in order to keep that relationship going.”
Teachers and administrators have also been dropping off paperwork and assignments to students who don’t have internet access, according to Eales.
Middle school principal Jen Couch made similar comments.
“Out of our fifth grade class, there are only six kids who haven’t logged in and attempted to start doing lessons this week,” Couch said.
Middle school faculty are also using Zoom to communicate with students, according to Couch.
“Our staff is really coming together across grade levels to help each other out with the technology piece,” Couch said. “And the kids are getting online just to talk to each other – to their peers as well as their teachers.”
Teachers are currently trying to figure out how to help students sign up for electives online, according to Couch. She also stressed that students without internet access can pick up materials in the vestibule outside Door #1 of the National Trail school building. The materials are arranged according to grade level.
High school principal Mike Eyler also said things were going well so far, with over two-thirds of students turning in assignments on time.
“Knowing some of the struggles our students have, that’s very impressive,” Eyler said.
Board member Greg McWhinney raised concerns about how to deal with the few students who don’t complete their assignments during the closure, however.
“That’s something that’s going to be answered as we move further along in this process,” superintendent Bob Fischer said. “It’s going to have to involve teachers reaching out to families.”
Fischer said that it may become necessary to offer a summer school session in August in order to help kids who’ve fallen behind get caught up. Though the course would technically be voluntary, Fischer said he was certain that students would attend.
“I feel confident that students will come in to finish up whatever learning they may have missed,” Fischer said.
Busses manned by National Trail staff and administrators, including Fischer, have delivered several hundred lunches to students over the course of the break, according to Fischer. Fischer thanked Food Service Supervisor Dorothy Frist and her staff for being an integral part of the lunch program.
“They’ve been a godsend, putting those meals together and keeping us organized,” Fischer said. “They’ve been as much a part of this as our teachers have been. I couldn’t be more impressed with the things that I’m seeing from our staff, whether it’s coming in to pack lunches or going out on the busses to deliver them. I’ve never been more proud of a group of individuals.”
National Trail Board of Education meetings take place the last Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the National Trail Middle School Media Center.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @improperenglish