Distance learning for administrators and support staff at OHS


Designed by Claire Heyne

OHS has been in the distance learning model since Nov. 17

Claire Heyne, Writer

On November 17, OHS moved from the hybrid learning model to the distance learning model. As of right now, students are set to return to the hybrid model in early January, but this is subject to change. For students, this means engaging in school work at home online and doing their daily attendance following the new attendance protocol on Infinite Campus. For teachers, this means teaching their students from home in a variety of means and utilizing tools such as Google Meet to be able to communicate with their students face to face. Less discussed is the distance learning experience for administrators, counselors and other support staff at OHS. 

During distance learning, these staff are focusing on continually reaching out and communicating with students, staff and families to ensure that all questions are answered and that those who need help will receive it. OHS Principal Mr. Kory Kath said, “Our mission every day is to connect with as many people as possible to ensure they are doing well and connecting with their learning. We also reach out to staff to make sure they have the tools needed to make learning happen online.” It can be a challenge to reach out to students and families when there is no way to see them in person and have a conversation face to face. 

The role of the OHS building during distance learning

With the transition to distance learning, the role of the OHS building has changed. Teachers and other staff are able to come only as needed and any necessary materials are available to students for pickup in the lobby. For the administrators and support staff who are used to seeing students and staff face to face, this part of distance learning has been difficult. Counselor Ms. Sara Craig said, “It’s very hard to meet with a student when you cannot just pull them from class. We work hard to connect with families and have a variety of methods of communicating- phone, chat, email, Google Meet, but sometimes we have to get extra creative. We also worry about a lot of our students for various reasons, and that increases when we can’t see them in person.” 

Challenges for support staff during distance learning

Because distance learning is a difficult experience for many students and families, the staff are also focusing on finding ways to make the experience easier for OHS families and providing them with things they may need, such as free meals, connections to mental health professionals and access to various community resources. Counselor Ms. Tami Langlois said, “I hope kids know that if they are struggling, that it’s okay to reach out – if it’s an academic need or their mental health – we are here to support.” Students are highly encouraged to reach out to support staff if they are struggling or have questions. 

“I hope kids know that if they are struggling, that it’s okay to reach out – if it’s an academic need or their mental health – we are here to support.””

— Counselor Ms. Tami Langlois

Another challenge these staff are facing is the inability to meet in person with other administrators and support staff. These staff connect with one another on a regular basis using video chat apps like Google Meet to ensure they are doing enough to support OHS families, teachers and each other. Social Worker Ms. Nancy Williams said, “The support staff meet regularly to discuss student needs, concerns and work together to team up and support the students who are struggling the most.  We have daily meetings to try to stay on top of issues and make sure we are doing all we possibly can to help students.” Staff communication is crucial during this time to share information and create a support system. 

Additionally, these staff are focusing on finding ways to successfully communicate with OHS students and families. Assistant Principal Ms. Hollie Jeska said, “Much of my day is spent putting supports in place for students that are struggling and reaching out to families to find ways to support our students.” 

“Much of my day is spent putting supports in place for students that are struggling and reaching out to families to find ways to support our students.” ”

— Assistant Principal Ms. Hollie Jeska

Successfully reaching out to students and families to communicate and keep students engaged in their school work has also been a challenge. Principal Secretary Ms. Dawn Tuchtenhagen said, “You have to get creative on how to keep students engaged while still building relationships.  Attendance has been our biggest challenge.” It is crucial that students and families who have questions or concerns reach out to support staff. Regarding the difficulty to reach students in need during distance learning, Ms. Langlois said, “It’s harder to keep an eye on kids that are struggling- we are really relying on students to reach out if they are struggling especially if they haven’t necessarily been on our radar before.” Although it may be difficult, students should try their best to stay engaged with their schoolwork and reach out if they need it to receive help. 

What’s different about this course of distance learning

A difference between this course of distance learning and the one from last March is that this time, staff felt more prepared to handle the challenges that come with distance learning. Ms. Jeska said, “Others think that it is the same as last spring and it is not.  Last spring was ‘Emergency Learning’, this is distance learning. We need our kids to stay engaged, connect with their teachers, and reach out to their counselors, administrators, and other supports when they need it.” On her hopes for how this course of distance learning will be better, Ms. Williams said, “My hope is that since kids are more accustomed to distance learning this time around than they were in the spring so getting logged in, understanding how to access Schoology, connecting with teachers, doing Google meets etc…is more familiar so we’ve had less students completely disengage.” 

Although staff and students were more prepared and familiar with distance learning this time, it certainly doesn’t make it easier for staff to communicate with students and to help students and families who are struggling. If you are a student or parent who is seeking help during this time, please visit the counseling website.