LEES CREEK — Due to all the current uncertainties, Columbus has at this point frozen state funds for East Clinton’s major construction and renovation project, currently in the design phase.
However, the school district is permitted to proceed and spend local dollars on the design phase — a phase that is targeted to end by November 2020.
The state of Ohio is responsible for contributing 52 percent of the co-fundable portion of the project, which involves construction of a new middle school and renovations at both elementary buildings and the high school.
The state is supposed to help with funding the design phase, and it has communicated that once it feels freed up financially, East Clinton would be made whole, said East Clinton Superintendent Eric Magee.
The timeline for a spring 2021 ground-breaking for the middle and high school work remains possible, said Magee.
The school board approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the school district and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, which says the district can continue to work with the architectural firm, Elevar Design Group. District officials and Elevar staff have been meeting weekly since fall.
Magee noted that the state basically has “put a freeze” on spending state money on any of the statewide school facility projects at this point. The MOU allows East Clinton to proceed with work on the project, but only through the design phase.
Meanwhile, East Clinton educators already are thinking about start-up plans for the August beginning of a new academic year, wanting to be ready for various scenarios and to steer clear of having to make on-the-spot maneuvers as occurred among all schools during an almost overnight closure in mid-March due to the public health emergency.
In addition to the preliminary thoughts about August, Magee spoke about how teachers and other district staffers have responded to the shutdown that, he said, has basically turned classrooms upside down.
“Again, really proud of our staff for what they put out there. I would hold up what we have been able to do here at East Clinton against anybody. They’ve done a great job,” said the superintendent.
Numerous Wi-Fi hot spots have been distributed for students to use who may not have connectivity, Magee said.
This was the second year for a 1:1 (one-to-one) Chromebook program at EC, and as a result all district students in grades 6 through 12 have a Chromebook device issued to them.
“So the biggest part of our [instructional] plan is online and to provide connectivity where possible. Where it’s not possible, then we need to fill in the gaps with hard copies and packets sent home,” said Magee.
For the younger students, and in the wake of Monday’s extending of the closure, their main source of materials will be in email, he said.
“We’ve tried to allow for learning opportunities that reinforce the things students already had been taught, especially in the younger grades,” added the superintendent.
The district has set a student’s third-quarter grade this year (when they were still in the classroom) as the lowest grade that particular student can receive for that subject in the fourth and final quarter. This grading format enables a student during the fourth quarter at home to increase that third-quarter grade in accordance with the work they’re doing at this point.
Schools are doing different things when it comes to fourth-quarter grading of students who are learning at home. A lot of schools are doing pass/fail, Magee said.
“Because of wanting this situation not to hurt any student, especially those students on the bubble who may not have [internet] access and connectivity, we are using the third-quarter grade that they earned — not just a random number — that is as low as they can have for the fourth quarter. And, if they do everything they’re being asked to do, that [fourth-quarter] grade can increase,” said Magee.
Districts are also handling student meals differently, something to be expected with the differences in families and needs, said Magee.
East Clinton is providing hot meals daily for pickup at its schools in Sabina and New Vienna, along with bus delivery of meals for those who live outside those villages and are unable to get to one of those lunch sites. Magee said Tuesday the district plans to continue both of those aspects of its meal program through the school calendar.
The lunches are “grab-and-go” style, and the bags also include breakfast supplies for the following day.
Board member Janielle Runyon suggested that parents of middle school students be advised by teachers on how the parents’ children are doing with the distance learning, and Magee agreed that is a good idea.
Looking ahead to the 2020-21 academic year, the superintendent said even if school buildings re-open in August, there will be transitions that have to be made.
An example, he said, is that with the nine or 10 weeks of remote learning this spring, there probably will be some things that teachers and students haven’t been able to get to. So there will need to be conversations among, for instance, third- and fourth-grade teachers, on how to get those content pieces in before student learning moves on.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.