School year getting off to smooth start

| September 11, 2020
he first day of school is always filled with excitement and nervousness. This year, thanks to COVID-19, the students and staff had an extended break and many new regulations that had to be followed when the schools opened up. Local schools report few problems, and students and staff are happy to be back together.
Ridgewood Local School District superintendent Mike Masloski said about 20% of their students chose remote learning to start the year, but that number has dropped to about 14%, and students in his district can return to their classrooms at any time.
“I am very proud of our students and staff with the new protocols and transitions with face masks, social distancing, and sanitizing and disinfecting,” he said.
Masloski said the district is adjusting and adapting every day to improve their students’ learning environment. Ridgewood students are attending five days a week.
About 30% of River View Local Schools students chose remote learning to start their school year. “We have face-to-face learning taking place four days a week with Monday being remote for all students,” superintendent Dalton Summers said.
Summers said the district doesn’t have enough staff to designate some teachers for remote only. Mondays give staff time to assess students’ work, plan for the week and meet in required team meetings.
“The new regulations are difficult, but they are manageable,” Summers said. “Students are doing an excellent job with masks. Surprisingly, that’s students of all ages. This doesn’t mean they are always comfortable, and I am certain they would love to get rid of them.”
Summers said in-person school has changed a lot with elementary students staying with the same group all day and desk barriers between students. “When I am speaking to the students, they all tell me they are glad to be back,” he said. “Kids need socialization. Socialization is healthy and necessary for development.”
River View has had a few technical issues with remote learning, and an order of Chromebooks for students was delayed. The students that chose remote learning can return to face-to-face learning at the end of the first quarter if they want.
“We had to determine different cut-offs so that we could safely and efficiently plan accordingly,” Summers said. “If there is one thing this entire process has taught us is that the value of public instruction cannot be overstated. We are thrilled to have students back and engaged in learning. We just want to thank this entire community for continuing to support us and work with us through this time.”
Coshocton Elementary School has 269 online students working remotely.
“We are asking that students not transfer from one learning option to another except at the end of the semester,” principal Dave Skelton said. “However, any student who may be experiencing extenuating circumstances will be permitted to transfer.”
The first few days of school went very well for those who chose the face-to-face option.
“The first few days have been highly successful,” Skelton said. “Students are having almost no problems wearing a face mask, they are maintaining a 6-foot distance from others, and they are regularly washing their hands or using hand sanitizer. Our youngest students are learning how to effectively wash their hands with the help of their teachers. Students are learning many things under the guidance of their classroom teachers; that is impressive considering we have been apart for six months. For example, (Sept. 10) I personally watched great lessons being taught in English, math, science and social studies. The students were actively involved and learning. It has been a great week, and we expect this to only get better.”
Skelton encourages parents to talk to their children at home and reinforce the work their children see at school each day. “Together we will help our students improve and become better students and outstanding young people,” he said.
Coshocton High School principal Grant Fauver said his building, which is grade 7-12, has approximately 62% of its students attending face to face while 38% chose the remote-learning option.
“The percentages for the elementary building are similar (57% to 43%),” Fauver said. “This was as of last Wednesday (Sept. 2) when our parent survey closed. We are all very proud of our staff and students for adjusting to all of the changes. We basically had to reinvent the way we do everything at CHS, from how we enter/exit the building, to how we walk in the hallways and stairwells, to how we eat, most importantly, how we instruct. We will be patient yet firm with our students, especially when it comes to social distancing. It is a difficult time for everyone, and we will continue to make adjustments to ensure our staff and students are safe.”
Like Skelton, Fauver encourages parents to work with the school.
“Parent support at a time like this is very helpful for us at school,” Fauver said. “Many of us are anxious about school starting because of all the new rules and regulations across the state and entire nation. That is OK. They are being implemented to help keep me, you and everyone around us safe. Everything we do is in the name of safety. We hope families respect that and help us accomplish our goal of being COVID-free at CHS.”
The private schools in the community also are off to a great start for the 2020-21 school year. Both Sacred Heart Catholic School and Coshocton Christian School have students attending five days a week.
“We have four who chose to do remote, but they can come back at any point,” said Mary Kobel, principal at Sacred Heart. “The kids wear face masks during transition times like when they are in line, heading to the bathroom or sharpening pencils. When they are sitting in class, they have three-sided pieces of Plexiglas on each desk, and the desks are separated for social distancing.”
So far the students are doing great with the changes.
“The kids are awesome,” Kobel said. “They are so excited to be back in school. Parents who thought their kids would have trouble with masks aren’t. They do it because everyone else is doing it. You can see the smiles in their eyes. Even the older students are excited to be back.”
There are 106 students at the school this year in preschool through seventh grade, which is a new addition to the school.
“It’s great to see growth here,” Kobel said.
Kobel also is proud of her staff. “None of the teachers even hesitated when it was time to come back,” she said. “I’m proud of all of our staff and students.”
Amanda Hamilton, principal at the Coshocton Christian School, said her school also experienced growth this year. They went from 130 students to 148, preschool through high school, and everyone is coming to school for face-to-face instruction.
“We are definitely glad for the opportunity to come back,” Hamilton said. “We’ve had to do a little bit of extra catch-up time with routines and review, though, because we were out so long.”
Like other students in the community, the Coshocton Christian School kids also are getting used to some new policies.
“They have to wear masks, and we are trying to social distance as much as possible,” Hamilton said. “We are doing extra sanitizing, and we’ve made extra recess time too, so we only have so many kids out there at a time. We are doing lunch in our rooms. I feel everyone is doing really well, though, and during school time it all seems normal.”
Editor’s note: Writers Jen Jones and Josie Sellers contributed to this story.

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