Clinton-Massie Schools dealing with distance learning


By Gary Huffenberger - ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com



ADAMS TOWNSHIP — Probably the biggest concern the Clinton-Massie leadership team has right now is how to serve special-needs students.

Superintendent Matt Baker made that comment during Monday night’s virtual meeting of the board of education. The session, of course, was dominated by the challenges of replacing classroom instruction with distance learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The schools haven’t received from the state or federal levels a clear picture of exactly what it looks like to serve special-needs youth in a distance learning situation, “so we’re doing our best to address the needs,” Baker reported to the board.

“As far as the actual accommodations made for [special-needs] students, that’s something honestly we’re still working on, and there isn’t a perfect answer to right now,” the superintendent added.

School board member Mike Gorman asked about the percentage of CM students who have internet access to take part in distance learning. That information was still coming in as of Monday, but a hard number should be available soon, said Baker.

The early numbers suggest somewhere between 11 and 20 percent of the Clinton-Massie student body don’t have internet access, he said.

In terms of solutions, Baker expects the school district will be able to open up its Wi-Fi access to students who can come and use it in the school parking lot.

Right now, district officials are working on opening up the Wi-Fi that’s based out of the stadium. That would pave the way for students — while practicing physical distancing from each other — to sit in the stands and do work from there or their parents’ vehicle.

That arrangement might include delineating times for users, he said.

Another concern involves what to do when students are not interacting with the new distance learning setup. A student engagement team comprised of staff has been formed to help address that occurrence.

The superintendent reported the union has been helpful and easy to work with in “these tumultuous times.”

Board member Mike Goodall asked district Treasurer Carrie Bir whether supplemental contracts for spring sports coaches would get paid if spring sports don’t take place this year. She said there were some spring sports practices that had occurred before schools were shut down, so that probably the union and the school board would have to work together and see where they need to go with that.

Baker and board President Jeremy Lamb praised the district’s staff, parents and students in the face of unprecedented circumstances.

Baker said he appreciates everybody’s “grace and patience” as distance learning is put into practice.

Mistakes will be made here and there, he predicted, but there will be a good faith effort to try to educate.

He said Clinton-Massie open enrollment for next school year starts Wednesday, April 1.

During the recent hiatus, the Hete Family and the Lucas Fund have contributed $2,000 and almost $6,000 respectively to the school district. Both gifts are for wellness equipment for the district’s outdoor wellness area near the YMCA entrance outside the Annex.

The board voted to set the procedure in motion to refinance bonds. When the district took out bonds / loans to build the new buildings a number of years ago, there were time frames when the district is allowed to refinance those. The district did that in 2011, and the time frame recurs in 2021.

Bir said though refinancing doesn’t save the district money, it would save taxpayers in the district money.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

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By Gary Huffenberger

ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com