35 minutes | May 5th 2020

Superintendents from Ohio and New York show how they are navigating the transition to online learning

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools in March, districts around the country were faced with quickly doing something they’d never done – delivering learning to students remotely. In a matter of days, districts had to overcome many barriers: ensuring students had devices and internet access, training teachers and putting together curriculum. In this episode of EdInfluencers, superintendents of two districts that successfully navigated the transition to online learning talk about how they did it. In Lakota School District in Liberty Township, Ohio, a quick response and the timing of spring break allowed the district to get a remote learning system in place in 10 days. 

Superintendent Matt Miller says the district’s priorities, however, weren’t all focused on learning. First, Miller said, the district wanted to ensure the well-being of students. That meant free meals for those who needed them and maintaining and fostering the social and emotional connections among teachers, students, parents and the community. With students engaged with teachers and classmates, the learning will come, Miller said. 

As for lessons learned, Miller cites the need to ensure digital equity, the importance of investing in technology and fostering robust communication at all levels, from superintendents to teachers, students and parents. 

In New York, Mineola Public Schools’ transition was eased by the fact that it has been a 1:1 district for 10 years. Superintendent Michael Nagler said that using iPads for learning was nothing new for teachers and students. The district quickly added the WebEx platform to provide a video link between teachers and students. In two days, teachers were trained on WebEx and ready to go. 

Nagler said, however, that the district’s first priority was checking in on the social-emotional well-being of students and their needs for learning at home. The district mobilized resources to address those needs. “It's a very difficult time for families and they need us to be the conduit to let them know everything's going to be OK,” he said. For Mineola, its early embrace of technology has paid off. “It just feels like we're doing what we always do,” Nagler said.