Members of the Oak Hill Union Local Schools Board of Education were recently provided a number of updates courtesy of Superintendent Dr. Marci Shepard. These updates were in relation to the district’s online-learning program, procedures for school delays and closures, as well as the district’s remote-learning plan.

Near the start of the Wednesday evening, Nov. 18 meeting, Dr. Shepard reminded board members of the discussion from the previous month’s meeting, which centered on the district’s performance with online instruction. During the October board meeting, Dr. Shepard said that, as of the end of the first grading period (Friday, Oct. 23), 12 percent of students attending class in person had at least one “F”, while 66 percent of students participating in online instruction had at least one “F”.

She explained a document outlining expectations for online students has been created, and that two criteria for participation in the online program have been added as well. The first criterion is that students must have a grade-point average (GPA) of 1.5 or greater at the end of the quarter in order to continue on with online instruction. This is the same GPA required to participate in extra-curricular activities.

Dr. Shepard told the board that 42 percent of the district’s online students had a GPA of less than 1.5 at the end of the first quarter, though this new requirement will not be enforced until the start of the third quarter. She said the district would be monitoring students’ progress and sending reports at weeks three, six and eight. If students do not have a 1.5 GPA by week eight of the nine-week quarter, Dr. Shepard stated they would be notified that they are to return to in-person instruction.

She added that students would know prior to Christmas break if they were switching to in-person instruction for the third quarter.

The second criterion is that students cannot have chronic absenteeism, which Dr. Shepard said is the same for all students, online or in-person.

During the Nov. 18 meeting, Dr. Shepard said, at the end of the first three weeks of the second quarter, 13 percent of the district’s students in the online program received attendance letters.

“So, there is chronic absenteeism,” she said, adding that attendance for the online program is as simple as logging in to Google Classroom at some point throughout the day.

Further, Dr. Shepard said 30 percent of the online students are currently not meeting the 1.5 GPA threshold.

“We communicated with them,” she explained. “We’re trying to be proactive and not let it go too far down the road. We will let people know their students have ‘F’s, how many ‘F’s and in what classes. We’ll continue to monitor this.”

The next update will come at the conclusion of the six-week mark of the second grading period.

In that same vein, Dr. Shepard also advised the board of recent updates to the district’s remote-learning plan, which would be implemented should another school shutdown be needed. This plan, she said, is different not only from the initial one put into place in the spring, but also differs from the one used when school resumed this fall.

“We’re learning that students need direct instruction and face time with teachers,” Dr. Shepard stated.

Overall, she explained the updated remote-learning plan adheres to a more rigid schedule with more opportunities for the “quality instruction that teachers can provide.” The plan likewise includes set expectations for students, staff and families alike. However, Dr. Shepard told the board she hopes this plan is never put to use.

“I truly believe that students are best served when they are in our schools,” she said. “I think we’re the best teachers for them. That’s where the experts are and I really believe that’s the safest place for them. Where I see surges of COVID is on Mondays. The cases that we have and that are occurring, are occurring outside of our schools. But, we do need to be ready in the event that we need to close.”

Dr. Shepard said another school shutdown could transpire if Gov. Mike DeWine mandates it or if the district lacks adequate staffing from positive COVID-19 cases and/or quarantines. However, she expressed her belief that such an occurrence would not be the result of the former.

“I don’t see [Gov. DeWine] closing schools,” said Dr. Shepard. “Even in his tweets he keeps reiterating that the virus’s spread is not happening in schools, and I think he believes what I believe – if we close schools, we’re going to have spikes in cases.”

Regarding the update for school closures and delays (typically due to inclement weather), Dr. Shepard said she would soon be sending letters to staff members and families explaining how these instances would be handled this school year. She said the district would employ robo-calls, texts, emails, the district’s Facebook page, The Radio and television to provide such information.

Finally, Dr. Shepard took an opportunity at the end of her report to dispel a rumor.

“If you hear rumors that we’re closing school between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s not true,” she said. The data is going to affect that decision, not the calendar. If we have a spike, I’ll watch the data and respond accordingly. If we’re able to serve kids in-person, I want to.”