For interviews with each of Wellington’s public school principals, read the Sept. 10, 2020, edition of the Lorain County Community Guide.
WELLINGTON — “When you’re given challenges, it gives you an opportunity to learn and discover things about yourself,” said Ed Weber.
That mindset will be put to the test this fall as schools grapple with enormous changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wellington Schools, where Weber is superintendent, are no different. But they do have a small advantage — they are the last in Lorain County to reopen, with kids heading back Wednesday, Sept. 14.
That means extra time for training teachers for a year unlike any other, and to watch other districts for early indications the virus is spreading among students.
Wellington plans to start the year with a hybrid model. Westwood Elementary will begin with kids attending in person, half days, four days a week and learning online the fifth day. McCormick Middle and Wellington High School will start at two days in person and three days of virtual instruction.
That’s what the district has deemed its “level two” plan. If the situation gets better after the first quarter or semester, Weber said it could bump up to level one, which would return kids to in-person learning five days a week.
Level three would mean the closure of a specific school if the pandemic worsens, and level four would send kids home for all-online learning as happened in the spring.
“I’m fairly confident we will be back to five days a week, and it may be sooner than we first thought,” said Weber last week.
He said he wants to return to the traditional K-12 model as soon as it’s safe to do so, but warned that Gov. Mike DeWine could trump that plan at any time by closing schools.
So far, Wellington and the surrounding townships have done a good job of limiting the spread of the virus, Weber said — Mayor Hans Schneider has reported two deaths and 16 COVID cases in the village.
For Weber, that’s a sign that the school system has a decent chance of making it through the year without an outbreak.
“I think I was sweating more three months ago, but with all the work with the county, with the education we’ve received, I feel prepared,” he said. “When you’re prepared I think some of that worry goes away.”
That doesn’t mean it’s disappeared entirely, or that safety steps aren’t still needed.
Staff and students will wear masks, and be expected to screen for symptoms and do temperature checks before arriving at school.
About 26 percent of Wellington’s roughly 1,000 students have chosen to learn online.
That’s 98 kids at Westwood Elementary, 92 at McCormick Middle and 71 at Wellington High School, according to the most recent numbers provided, for a total of 261.
Online courses will be taught by Wellington teachers for grades K-8. High-schoolers will get instruction via Edmentum, which was hired by the Board of Education at a cost of $148,260 for the fall semester.
With a quarter of kids going online, classrooms will be much emptier. Desks will be spread apart to limit contact and students won’t move around nearly as often as they used to.
Weber said learning may not always happen in the classroom like it used to. That’s a reality Ohio’s schools have been building to for a long time.
Wellington has been investing in technology, using new tools and working online supports into the curriculum for the past several years, he said.
“I think the staff is much more prepared than they would have believed,” he said. “I think they are more ready and tooled up than they general thought they may be. I think they have the tools and talent that is needed for this year.”