CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee School District board members and administrators discussed active shooter threats and issues related to online learning during their regular monthly meeting Thursday, Oct. 8.
Shawnee students were sent home early on Tuesday, Oct. 6 after an unknown individual posted threats to carry out a school shooting on social media. According to Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop, both the Junior and Senior High and Camden Primary School were put on lockdown for nearly two hours due to the threat, which came in the form of a pair of postings to the popular online messaging platform Snapchat.
Students in grades 7-12 were sent home at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to Bishop, while K-6 students were dismissed at around 12:15 p.m. Students returned to school normally on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
Several attendees at Thursday’s meeting discussed the incident. Special Education Director and Preschool Supervisor Jennifer Taulbee brought up the district’s plan to connect the PA systems at the Jr/Sr High and Camden Primary.
“After Tuesday, it’ll be worth its weight in gold,” Taulbee said, noting that a single PA system would have saved time and made communication between the two facilities during the lockdown much easier.
According to Bishop, the project will cost the district about $9,000 and should be completed within the next several weeks.
Board member Gary Rader stated that the Snapchat messages which instigated the lockdown are believed to have come from the account of a Preble Shawnee student which was “hacked.” Local authorities and school officials continue to investigate the incident.
Taulbee was also the first of several school administrators to address issues with remote learning.
“It’s not a pretty picture, but I want to make it very clear that this is not directed at any of our staff,” Taulbee said. “Our staff is doing an amazing job with remote learning. They’re going above and beyond. But it’s not working with the students with special needs.”
Taulbee said that 36 special needs students – 18 in grades K-6 and 18 at the Jr/Sr High – are enrolled in the school’s remote learning program.
“I have grave concerns about the lack of learning that is taking place with about 80 percent of the [special needs] students that we have on remote learning right now,” Taulbee said. Of the 18 students in grades 7-12, according to Taulbee, 13 are failing at least one class, and 9 of those have three or more Fs; for high school students, Taulbee said, this could potentially threaten their ability to graduate. The failing grades are not a result of school officials not taking the time to reach out, according to Taulbee.
“It’s just not happening in the home,” Taulbee said. According to Taulbee, students are spending about 7 hours and 15 minutes a week on the remote learning platform. “They’re not spending the time, which is what happens when you’re not doing the work and you’re failing the class.”
Camden Primary principal Heather Campbell expressed similar concerns, saying that many primary school students on remote learning are racking up large numbers of absences.
“I’m calling up parents and saying, ‘Hey, your child hasn’t done anything for three or four days. What’s going on?’” Campbell said. “Sometimes I’m getting hold of them and sometimes I’m not, so it’s very worrisome for my teachers.”
Campbell also raised the importance of teacher and peer interaction.
“I personally do not feel that remote learning is what’s best for a primary-age student,” Campbell said. “Primary-age students need to have interaction with people; they need to be able to talk with people, have conversations. [Remote students] are not getting those hands-on pieces.”
Campbell said that of 28 kindergartners who initially opted for remote learning, all but 10 have returned to in-person instruction; Camden Primary is no longer allowing first and second grade remote learners to return due to lack of space. Meanwhile, 22 out of 74 K-3 students are consistently either not completing assignments, turning them in late, or having parents complete work for them, according to Campbell.
“These are critical years,” Campbell said. “If [students] do not get those foundational skills that they need, we are going to be seeing the effects of this for many, many years to come.”
Board member response
Board member Charlie Biggs appealed to the parents of remote students.
“Without parental involvement, this is not going to work,” Biggs said.
Board Vice President Jeff Wood worried that remote learning might be putting too much of a burden on parents, however.
“We’re relying on parents to fill in a lot of gaps, and they don’t have the qualifications,” Wood said.
Finally, Bishop raised the issue of whether the district will continue with remote learning next semester.
“If we know that learning is not happening… how in good conscience can we allow education to not happen?” Bishop asked.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook or Instagram @mproperenglish