What’s keeping districts open, or forcing them to close
Early this school year, Superintendent Brian Kuhn doubted that Clark-Shawnee Local School District could stick with hybrid learning through Thanksgiving.
Now, it looks like the Ohio district will make it to Christmas break without having to close classrooms due to quarantines or staffing shortages, Kuhn tells District Administration.
“There were some days where we’ve had to get creative to stay open,” Kuhn says. “We’ve had positive cases in all departments but it hasn’t hit an entire department all at once to where it really hampered operations.”
The district started the year with hybrid learning to allow for social distancing in classrooms, hallways and cafeterias and has been able to maintain that approach.
Keeping everyone spread out has meant that positive cases haven’t resulted in spread, close contact issues or the need for widespread quarantines, Kuhn says.
The district wants to keep teachers in front of their students as much as possible, Kuhn says.
“The real heroes in all this are the teachers and support staff who stepped up and filled gaps when they needed to be filled, when colleagues were struggling physically or social-emotionally,” he says.
Kuhn and his team have been stressing self-care with teachers, encouraging them to disconnect from work to recharge and refresh.
To boost morale, Kuhn recently held a districtwide Zoom meeting to announce that the local municipal government was investing $350,000 in CARES Act to the district.
The money was used to buy 400 laptops for students and Apple Macbook Airs for teachers.
“If we have to go remote, they have a robust device,” he says. “The joy was overwhelming. The community was saying to teachers we appreciate you and value you and will invest so you have the tools to do your job really well.”
Contending with community spread
Bartlesville Public Schools in Oklahoma has also avoided staffing shortages that could have forced schools to close.
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However, the district has shifted to full remote for the last week before Christmas break because of infection rates in the city and the pressure on local hospitals, Superintendent Chuck McCauley says.
Teachers and staff were highly compliant with safety measures, which the district began sharing over the summer.
“For next semester we would look at the city new case rate, hospital tier status, and ICU bed availability to return to in-person learning as soon as it appears safe to do so,” McCauley says.