NEW PARIS — National Trail School District principals and administrators discussed preparations for the coming school year and plans for 2020 graduation during the monthly Board of Education meeting Tuesday, April 28.
“People need to understand that what we’re doing is going to look very different next year,” Superintendent Bob Fischer said. “I believe we’re going to be starting the school year with a very different format than what we’re used to. I think we’re going to be dealing with smaller class sizes, and maybe only bringing in certain segments of our student population at a time.”
Final work for the current school year will be due sometime in late May, according to Fischer. Teachers and other staff, meanwhile, will spend the final nine or 10 days of the term getting ready for next year.
“What would a classroom look like if we could only bring in 50 kids at a time?” Fischer asked. “We had to come up with something very quickly as we were leaving this year, but now we have some time to start asking these questions.”
Administrators also discussed the results of a survey taken by parents in the district. The survey was intended to measure parents’ level of satisfaction with nontraditional learning initiatives, including online instruction, which were put into place following Governor Mike DeWine’s closure of all public schools in Ohio in March.
“Parents say they’re getting to know the teachers better because of the online communication,” elementary principal Ed Eales said. “They like that because it gives more of a personal touch.”
Middle School principal Jen Couch agreed, saying that parents had praised video lessons created by teachers as well as their quick response to questions.
“As a parent of kids in another district, I can say that I haven’t received any direct contact from any of my kids’ teachers,” Couch said. “That’s not happening here.”
High School principal Mike Eyler stressed his own efforts to stay in touch with parents, especially those of students who are having difficulty completing assignments.
“I’ve called every single family of every single student who has missed multiple assignments,” Eyler said. “And I’ve seen a lot of names come off that list and a number of grades go up.”
Eyler said a number of factors were affecting students’ ability to get assignments done, including internet access as well as work and family obligations.
“They’re helping a younger sibling, or they’re working off a hotspot on their parent’s phone,” Eyler said. “Some of our students are working essential jobs, and because they’re home their boss is tacking on more hours.”
Also during last month’s meeting:
Couch discussed changes to the student handbook for the 2020-21 school year, including new rules regarding cell phone usage.
“We’ve had kids texting their parents to come get them when they don’t feel well, without going through the clinic or the office,” Couch said, resulting in situations where school officials may not even realize that a student has left the premises. The proposed new policy, according to Couch, would specify that these be recorded as unexcused absences.
Administrators are also considering prohibiting cell phone use during lunch and recess, according to Couch.
“Kids are hardly eating because they’re so engrossed with whatever is going on on social media,” Couch said. Fischer agreed, saying that recess periods, in particular, are a time when students are supposed to be exercising and being social.
Policing these things can be difficult, according to Fischer, because of the prevalence of phones among the student body.
“I’d venture to say that 80 to 90 percent of our kids have cell phones,” Fischer said.
Finally, Fischer said that some sort of graduation ceremony for the school district’s seniors is slated to happen in June, likely on a Saturday evening. The ceremony will likely take place on the school’s football field, according to Fischer, though other possibilities — including a “virtual” graduation or some sort of drive-through event taking place in the school’s parking lot — are also being considered.
“In any case, we’re probably looking at having to limit the number of people who can attend,” Fischer said. “If we’re going to be on the news, I want it to be because of our students and our programs. Not because a bunch of people came to graduation and then decided to do social gatherings afterward.”
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