For many area districts this week marks the end of a school year like no other.
The historic coronavirus shutdowns have forever marked the last portion of the 2019-20 school year as one of the most unusual and challenging in Ohio school history.
“Everything is different,” said Elizabeth Beadle, spokeswoman for Middletown Schools.
Beadle said teachers across the city schools are cobbling together their own ways to say goodbye to their students with some mailing well wishes and encouraging cards to their homes.
Others, like Wildwood Elementary teacher Carrie Parsons, are creating bags of remembrances with trinkets, friendship bracelets, coloring books, sidewalk chalk and photo posters of her class, all of which she hand-delivered to homes.
All other traditional, end-of-school-year interaction is taking place digitally or over the phone and on the usual schedule for this time of year, said Beadle.
Lakota Schools teachers and administrators at the district’s 22 schools are customizing their final school year interactions as students finish their last week of remote learning.
“We are so proud of the work our students have done during these last months of school. Our principals want to recognize their achievements – not just during remote learning, but throughout the year,” said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for Lakota
“Announcements of academic awards are being done virtually by our schools, with many of our principals creating special videos to share with family members. Our students have been able to pick up their certificates and awards while retrieving their personal belongings at school. Some will also be mailed home.”
At Kings Schools, many teachers have been creating slideshows and virtual awards.
“This is not how we would have liked to end the school year, but we are so proud of our staff for continuing to make connections with their students,” said Dawn Gould, spokeswoman for Kings Schools.
Kings is holding a drive-bye farewell today at its schools, where students, families can drive vehicles past the front of schools to bid their goodbyes to teachers standing outside.
“No one is allowed to get out of their cars. It’s just a way for our students to be able to see their teachers and have some sort of closure for the year,” said Gould.
Fairfield Schools have some similar, vehicular-oriented ceremonies, having dubbed theirs as “a drive by way to wave goodbye” at Central Elementary.
“This has been an extremely difficult separation for all because of the abruptness of our school closure and subsequent extension to the end of the school year,” said Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for the district.
“We have tried to do all that we can to ensure our students’ needs are met, while also making sure that our staff members are doing okay as well.”
Teaching – even under the best of circumstances – is a challenging profession, said Joni Copas, spokeswoman for the 10,000-student Hamilton Schools.
Toss in a global pandemic and total school shutdown and it makes a tough job even harder, she said.
“In normal times, the jobs our entire staff do on a daily basis is extraordinary, but given the events of the last months, the level of commitment and dedication they have displayed with assisting our students and families is second to none,” said Copas.
Remote learning classes, which end this week, are wrapping up and Hamilton schools have arranged for non-graduating seniors to pick up their belongings, grades will be mailed home or available online by next week and many teachers are posting farewell photos and videos for their students on social media, she said.
Ross Superintendent Scott Gates said the schools have “developed unique plans to connect to their students and families.”
Letting individual schools tailor their procedures to their immediate school community allows “unique activities meet the needs of our unique buildings and groups,” said Gates.
“And our parent groups have done a wonderful job connecting with our staffs to develop a memorable ending for our students during this trying time,” he said.
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