CUYAHOGA FALLS — Teachers and school administrators found themselves facing challenging tasks in March after Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the closing of all schools to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Educators not only put curriculum and teaching tools online, but found ways for students to either access the new lesson plans online, or alternatives for those who could not.
With plans for next school year up in the air, Cuyahoga Falls City Schools Superintendent Todd Nichols said that the district’s teachers and staff "have been phenomenal" in how they dealt with the unexpected closure this year.
"They have been open to trying new techniques and tools to engage students," Nichols said. " I am incredibly proud of our staff. They have been very diligent, vigilant, patient, and cooperative."
Julie Dudones, the district’s coordinator of 6-12+ curriculum/instruction, said one issue was to make sure students had access to technology from home.
"The district sent a survey and principals and teachers have been reaching out to parents and trying to get Chromebooks in the hands of every student," Dudones said. "The district assisted many families in helping them to acquire internet access at home thanks to the generosity of our community partners."
The staff has stepped up to the challenge, and not just with technology and academics, Dudones said, "from staff members being in the buildings to prepare and provide meals, to driving to students’ homes to drop off meals or Chromebooks — staff members are making videos to share with students and families how much they are missed, and students are making videos to share the same sentiments back."
She added teachers are "working countless hours to plan lessons in a way they have never done before to parents working countless hours helping students learn at home in a way they have never learned before."
Online resources included Google Classroom for lessons and Zoom for virtual classroom meetings.
"Most of our teachers are utilizing Google Classroom; some of them started this as a result of the transition," Dudones said. "Some teachers are using ClassDojo as a communication tool, which they were using throughout the school year. Many teachers are also using the Remind app as a way of communicating with parents and students, which is a tool they were using throughout the school year. Zoom and Google Meet software has been invaluable in personalizing experiences with faculty and learners."
Dudones said that the learning environment needed to be flexible.
"Some learning is done in front of the computer, with peers in a virtual setting, and with a teacher sharing instruction in real time," she said. "That is not the only way that learning takes place. Students should have the opportunity to have discovery time, active learning, and time to create projects. All instructional time should not take place with a student sitting in front of a computer listening to a teacher talk. Remote learning can have many flexible options of activities to contribute to a holistic learning approach."
In addition, students should spend time on reading and discussing what they have read – something that hasn’t changed, Dudones said.
"That is a constant regardless of a remote learning setting or in-person setting," Dudones said.
Dudones said 98% of students have been reached by teachers and staff, and the number of families that needed technical support was less than one percent. In addition, the district was offering a "drive-thru" service twice a week for students who need a Chromebook or who need to exchange a Chromebook should their device need repairs.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC