BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — On December 7, Maumee students returned to a virtual learning format and district leaders offered their support through regular communication while encouraging that students maintain a structure, a space and a schedule, even at home.
“If students had first-period math, then we encouraged them to work on math or attend those Zooms during that time period – so they could try to stay consistent with their schedules,” said Gateway Middle School counselor Jake Tapley.
The district has applied as much structure as possible with the virtual learning format by implementing two daily, live Zoom sessions with teachers as well as assignments, office hours and one-on-one assistance as needed, said MHS counselor Justin Fults.
“The instruction has gotten better and it’s not an unknown to the students, so they have been able to prepare themselves emotionally,” Fults said. “Everybody wants to be together, everybody wants to experience school, but for the time being, this is what we need to do and I think the kids can be pretty resilient.”
Parent Cindy Bachar said that having a designated workspace as well as a regimented routine for her 10-year-old son Jacob has been key to staying on track with schoolwork.
Jacob, who is on the autism spectrum, also goes to school three days per week as part of the RISE program, or Recommended Intervention and Structured Environment. The program is for students who have a significant need for face-to-face intervention, a structured environment for learning, or both. Students in that program attend school in small-group settings with an aid who helps keep them on track with learning, said the district’s director of Educational Services, Tricia Samuel.
“We ran the RISE program during the month of September and then started it again on December 7, when the district went virtual,” she said. “The staff is on-hand to assist the students with remote learning throughout the day.”
Additionally, classroom teachers, intervention specialists and therapy staff are providing some of the students’ targeted intervention and therapy support. Some students may receive intervention or therapy virtually outside of the RISE program if the support cannot be scheduled when the student is in the building, Samuel added.
Dylan Goodman, a recently hired fourth-grade intervention specialist at Wayne Trail Elementary, believes that the program has definitely helped students during this difficult time.
“It’s hard enough to teach kids outside of school as it is, but when they have special needs, it’s that much more challenging. With an opportunity like the RISE program, we give the kids who really need that one on one, face to face, that chance,” he said.
Bachar agrees and says it has helped Jacob.
“Absolutely, it keeps him in a routine. It keeps him in school, which is important,” she said.
Bachar is a certified teacher and serves as a substitute in the district and is very pleased with how the district has handled the changes between virtual and in-class learning.
“I think they have been very on top of things. I am very proud of the school system both as a parent and as an employee. I think they are doing an amazing job,” she said.
The district plans to return to in-person instruction on January 11 for all students in all grades. Those students who chose to remain virtual however, will continue with online learning.
Fairfield counselor Amy Johnson has been helping families with young children work through problems such as getting connected to classroom assignments and keeping children engaged in the learning process.
“At this level, in-person learning is definitely better for kids and there will definitely be difficulty getting kids back to where they need to be,” she said. “Getting kids back in a routine and doing all we can to make them feel safe when they are back in school is going to be the most important thing.”
Tapley said that some middle school students had technical issues, including problems with Chrome-books or shortcomings with internet access during at-home learning. He also helped students manage time, distractions and the self-discipline needed to keep up. This week, he has begun to prepare for students returning to school by reviewing answers to questions he sent them about their Christmas break.
“My plan this week is to go through the responses and reach out to those who said they do want to talk to me,” he said. Tapley will also reach out to students he suspects need someone to talk to based on their comments.
“I’m glad we’re going to have kids back in the building next week,” Tapley said. “I’m really looking forward to everyone coming back and getting back to it.”