Dr. Amy Crouse, Loveland Schools Superintendent disappointed, not surprised by Governor DeWine’s announcement Ohio schools will not reopen this school year
By: Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH (April 20, 2020) – Loveland City School District Superintendent Dr. Amy Crouse was watching and listening to the Monday afternoon press conference of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine when he announced Ohio schools would stay closed for the remainder of this school year.
Dr. Amy Crouse, Superintendent, LCSD (Provided)
Crouse shared her reaction to the news schools would remain closed with Loveland Beacon immediately following Governor DeWine’s press conference. She expressed support for the Governor’s decision for the safety of students, teachers and the community. It was a decision she, like most educators all around Ohio, expected. Still, not the way she wanted to see the school year end for students or staff.
“I freely support the safety decision, and fully understand it,” said Crouse. “It still makes me sad this is how we end the school year. It’s disappointing, we’re in support of the decision, it’s just disappointing to end the school year this way.”
While not surprised at the official closing of schools for the rest of this school year, Crouse expected Governor DeWine to make that announcement Tuesday. She meets with area superintendents every Tuesday and Friday morning by conference call. Governor DeWine was supposed to meet with school superintendents Tuesday morning. She expected his announcement to come after that.
“We were really expecting the announcement tomorrow,” Crouse said. “It was surprising to hear it today, but not surprising. I think we were kind of hoping we would hear some general parameters and guidelines about how to come back so we can start work on that. He was very clear in the press conference, and has been very clear all along, business can’t go back to normal, can’t go back to usual.”
School parking lots and classrooms will remain empty for rest of this school year (Chuck Gibson)
Crouse wonders what it might look like for schools. She is very anxious to hear what those guidelines will be, not just for schools, but businesses and other public areas. Governor DeWine was very active on his Twitter account, tweeting his thoughts and responses to some of those concerns.
“There is the possibility that we will have a blended system this fall, some distance learning as well as some in-person learning,” DeWine tweeted. “That’s just a possibility and each school district is different.”
Questions remain for the immediate future with the schools remaining closed to students through the rest of the school year. At the outset of the closure order, it was still believed to be temporary. As a result, students and staff still have
personal belongings in the school. How, and when, do they get back in to simply clean out their lockers, classrooms, and gather up their personal belongings? These are questions Crouse and school officials ponder.
“In one respect it is a relief to know the decision for this year,” said Crouse.
A lot of planning was already being done to have things in place if schools reopened, while simultaneously different plans were being made for the possibility school would NOT reopen.
“It’s a relief that we at least know that half,” Crouse explained. “We can finish up this school year remotely and figure out how to do those things.”
The bigger picture is the concerns on how they’ll implement safety protocols for students and staff next fall. It is understandable that Crouse and the other superintendents hoped for a little more guidance from the Governor now to help begin planning for those changes. DeWine said they’re not in a place to make those decisions yet.
“As we move forward – we’ve made no decision about the fall,” he tweeted. “I know parents, teachers, and administrators are anxious about an answer about the fall, but we’re not in the position to make that decision yet.”
He has been nothing if not steadfast in making critical decisions on closures, activities, and safely guarding against crowds of people potentially spreading the virus. Likewise, he has been steady in his effort to maintain a calm response without undue alarm and panic. DeWine recognizes the concerns of school officials trying to adjust and plan for the resumption of classroom teaching, and knows this is not a one-size-fits-all situation.
“As these decisions are made, we’re going to allow a great deal of flexibility within broad parameters for the local schools,” said DeWine in another tweet. “What you find in one district is different from another district.”
Loveland Robotics students (Chuck Gibson File)
Crouse says LCSD is looking at planning for the return to classrooms in the fall from multiple possibilities. One is how do they have people in the buildings and meet whatever the protocols for safety will be. How to accomplish that is the first line of thinking. Another is how can they be more responsive to a temporary shutdown next year based on lessons learned from the sudden emergency shutdown this year. They’re looking at ways to be more smooth if there had to be a short-term shutdown next year, or before there is a vaccine. There are a lot of questions school officials are addressing according to Crouse.
She immediately posed the question: “Where are large groups of students, and how can we avoid that? The lunchroom is one. How do we plan for bag lunches? How can we plan for kids to get lunch? How can we separate kids in our buildings? Will that look blended: some remote, some in the classroom?”
Crouse went on offering questions/challenges about transportation, student or staff illness protocols. Just as quickly she offered potential solutions. You get the idea. They are leaving no stone unturned thinking and talking about virtually every scenario schools and our community may face in reopening. The focus is on safety and protection of everyone in the teaching/learning environment, not on extracurricular activities. Those are things they are working hard to resolve for the future. They are also working hard to resolve the immediate impact of schools being closed for the rest of this year.
“It’s not going to be easy, and it’s a real shame,” tweeted DeWine.” I can’t express how sorry I am about that because I know how much all of these activities mean to young people, especially those in their senior years.”
LHS building (Chuck Gibson File)
“The high school has been doing lots of virtual recognitions already, for the seniors in particular,” said Crouse. “They’re posting pictures with their college, or their post-high school plans whether they’re going into service, a four-year college, or the Aveda school for hairstyling, whatever their plans are. The athletic department is going around taking pictures of athletes in their front yard. We’re just trying to keep some buzz and some positive things to celebrate them.”
The Governor tweeted his confidence that Ohio school leaders will use their creativity and innovation to soften the blow to students: “We’re not telling schools how to do this, but the gathering of a significant number of people is dangerous. So just as schools have been innovative in how to teach from a distance, I know they will be innovative as they find a way to honor students.”
The Principals from each of the Loveland schools meet every week. Last week they were asked to define ways to recognize kids and figure out what an end of year celebration could look like. It might be small groups of students at a time coming to get all their belongings; no hugs, no high fives, just an opportunity to say goodbye.
They’ll get award plaques and certificates for completing the grade successfully. Plans are being made to be certain student recognition usually given at Board of Education meetings will still be done by picture and name.
“As far as graduation goes, we have a back-up, a back-up, and a triple back-up plan trying to weigh out all the possibilities so we have a solid plan,” Crouse said. “Cintas cancelled. The quickest we can get into Cintas would be August 2nd. We did reserve that day with Cintas, but that would be our last choice because if we can’t pull it off on August 2nd, we don’t know what the back-up plan is to that.”
“School end-of-the-year activities like graduation, band camp, sporting events, etc.,” DeWine tweeted. “This is part of the sadness of all of this. I know with our kids and grandkids, the end of the year is particularly important.”
Loveland Schools celebrates all the students, not just the 2020 senior class (Chuck Gibson File)
Crouse says they have identified dates throughout the summer thinking about ways to especially honor the senior students. The question is when they can do something, and what they’ll be allowed to do in terms of social-distancing restraints. She promised she and LHS principal Peggy Johnson are working on something very special, but details of what that may be are not complete yet. Students have indicated they want graduation to be as traditional as possible.
“However we need to do that, people want to be together and have a little bit of that pomp and circumstance,” she said. “That is our priority.”
While school buildings will remain closed for the rest of the school year, remote learning is in session until the official end of the school year Friday, May 29, 2020. Crouse says they have been able to keep students engaged in remote learning. They are trying to be respectful of students and families home circumstances. She is very thankful for the collaboration with NEST and the impact they’ve had on caring for the most vulnerable students.
LCSD challenged with preparing for a very different tomorrow (Chuck Gibson File)
“It will be very interesting to see where we land after it is all over,” Crouse said. “All schools have done some things that just a month ago we would have said no, that’s not possible. Yet we have. Now, what will we learn from that? I hope more options for learning come out of this for kids.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine made it clear on Monday afternoon schools will remain closed for the rest of this school year. He is unclear at this time what even the fall future of schools looks like. It is clear to Crouse they will not be going back to an old normal. Yet, she has no doubt, in Loveland, they’ll make the new normal as good as ever.
“Whatever the challenge, this team and the Loveland students always rise well beyond anybody’s expectations,” said Crouse. “While I am sad, we don’t get to be in the mix of the end of the year activities, it hasn’t crossed my mind for a second that it won’t still be wonderful. It’s still going to be magical. The teams teachers, and parents are still going to make that happen.”
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