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A new way of learning

For the first day of the new school year, some Vandalia students were in the classroom, wearing face coverings, and others were learning from home.

On Tuesday, those learning from home on Monday were in the classroom, and those in the classroom the day before were learning from home.
And, there are those students who are learning remotely all of the time.
The Vandalia School District started the 2020-21 school year with its hybrid model, with some students in the classroom on Mondays and Wednesdays and others on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Fridays being a remote learning day.
And the reviews for the first two days under the hybrid model were pretty good.
“From my perspective, the first two days, it’s been an amazing start to your school year, Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Garrison said.
“From my point of view, we have two nurses, we have four buildings, so getting each morning started has been simply amazing, with how seamless, things are going, so just hats off to everybody,” Garrison said.
Building principals also had good things to say about their first two days.
“It was really a lot smoother than we planned on,” high school Principal Randy Protz said, with Assistant Principal Greta Krueger adding, “It exceeded our expectations.
Brian Kern, the junior high principal, said, “I would say, logistically I think we’ve nailed it.
“The numbers are right, where we can manage everything, the kids are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
“We have little hiccups here and here, the way we do attendance, it’s all different now, the challenenges getting that right, and getting people comfortable with the new way and how it looks different,” Kern said.
“But, we’ll get there,” he said.
Vandalia Elementary School Principal Stacy Mesnard agreed with the other principals.
“We have the numbers right,” she said. “You’re feeding them all in the same spot, supervising them in the same spot while eating, yet spreading them out. We’ve got some kids sitting on tables like this (cafeteria table) down the hall eating, that’s okay.”
“Having kindergarten (and) preK teachers get to stand on the front yard was huge,” Mesnard said. “We did that because it helps kids on the first day to school, and they’re so little.
“And there have been a lot of parents were out there taking pictures, that made moms feel better,” she said. “Not one parent tried to come in the building.”
Mesnard said that she had been taking a lot of photographs inside the school and posting them on the VES Facebook page, to show parents “that everything was the same.”
About the Okaw Area Vocational Center, Garrison noted that the center has students from Vandalia and 12 other high schools.
“Okaw itself has four of the 11 health regions, feeding into us,” she said. “Some of us are hybrid, some of us are remote.
“Our (Vandalia district) is different than his (Director Nick Casey’s) when he’s looking at four health regions,” Garrison said.
“Okaw’s going to look really different,” she said.
One difference is that buses are not being used to transport Okaw students from other schools. Those students are driving their own vehicles, with a parking area west of the center set aside for those students.
Garrison praised the school district staff for their involvement in preparing and implementing the new hybrid model.
“I just want to thank everybody sitting in this room (administrators and board members), along with our school nurses and our teachers,” she said.
Board member Ryan Lewis said, “I agree with everything you said – I can’t give any more kudos.
“But there’s absolutely no way those kids, those teachers would have been able to walk into (our buildings) without our support staff working their butts off.
“So, I think it’s very important to congratulate them for a job well done,” Lewis said.
“Our food services, our bus drivers or transportation custodial staff and our maintenance worked their butts off this whole summer, and they made it possible for us to have our doors open,” he said.

Kali Kirby does some coloring on her first day in kindergarten at Vandalia Elementary School.

Julie Lay (left), district technology specialist and business/computers teacher, and Molly Kirk, Vandalia Community High School secretary, check on the Chromebook and class books that have been put out for pickup by VCHS students.

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