WOOSTER, Ohio — Wooster City Schools is working with community partners to get kids back to school safely.
The district has three options for its families. The first option is a 100% online curriculum. The second is in-school twice a week and three days of online learning. The third is in-school twice a week but housed at an alternative learning site for the other three days.
Superintendent Michael Tefs said they wanted to give the five-day-a-week option to families who need childcare so they can go back to work.
“You could feel the relief because they were so worried about what am I going to do?” he said.
About one-third of the district’s families chose that option.
But in order to do that safely and socially distance the students, the district had to get creative. It reached out to the community, asking if any businesses or organizations had a space for the students.
Tefs said he was floored with the response. He said the volunteers are coming through the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA and other community partners.
“It’s so heartwarming and refreshing to have so many organizations and individuals in Wooster reach out and say ‘How can we help you?’ and if came it from donating masks and making masks to volunteering time to come in and support.”
The district asked for community volunteers to chaperone the students.
“They’re not providing direct instruction or direct care. All of our volunteers are just kind of helping on the periphery, but without those volunteers really the system would struggle,” said Tefs.
Joi Hemphill, a longtime Wooster resident, was one of the first to sign up.
“The school district announced their plan and stated they were going to do alternative learning sites and I thought that’s my perfect answer. I don’t have to be one person simply helping one neighbor, I can be one person helping a community of neighbors,” she said.
Grace Church will be one of the alternative sites. The church used to house a school in it, so there is ample room to house the students safely.
When the school year starts, about 300 students will be using the space.
Hemphill said as a mom, she recognized that parents may need that childcare option.
“We can step up, and volunteer, and provide the necessary supervision for those kids that can’t remain at home, and still need someone to keep an eye on them and keep them focused on their learning and safe activities,” she said. “I just feel like it’s my turn to help and I need to do what I can.”
Tefs said they have about 12 community volunteers but are looking for a few more to fill in the gaps on Wednesdays.
“For some, it may just be two hours a day and they know it will help us get the morning started, or maybe it’s just an hour at the end of the day and it will help us with dismissal,” he said.
If you can help, contact Wooster City Schools.