LIMA — Area educators on every level had to swiftly change plans when COVID-19 hit the region last March.
For Lima schools, the changes were profound.
“We had to do a lot of physical things to our buildings and in our buildings in terms of shields, being pretty meticulous with spacing as well, hand sanitizers, supplies and things like that,” said Jill Ackerman, superintendent of Lima schools.
They went through a regimen of deep cleaning throughout their buildings and still do today.
“We’ve had those sanitizing machines for a couple of years but really putting together a very meticulous schedule of cleaning door handles and knobs and just getting around the building around the clock, wiping things down,” Ackerman said.
Bluffton University president Jane Wood says there were many things they’ve learned throughout the pandemic.
“We are a very strong community. When we sent our students home on March 18 of last year, we were able to pivot to remote learning in maybe even less than a week and when students came back the students and faculty were wearing masks and they still continued to provide a really great education,” Wood says.
Ohio Northern University president Dan DiBiasio says the pandemic has taught them to be more flexible, creative and resilient.
“We looked at our calendar and realized we needed to make some adjustments in the face of COVID and as its evolved. We’ve been able to flexibly look at how an academic semester unfolds. Our program in the fall, where we brought students back early, really took no breaks and then ended early in anticipation of a fall surge proved to be a successful calendar adjustment for us,” DiBiasio said.
Rhodes State College president Cynthia Spiers says they’ve tried to keep students learning, away from campus mainly.
“We don’t have too many people on campus. The labs are open but we’re keeping everything low density to protect everybody. We have the remote delivery which has really helped so people aren’t too close together, and we’re wearing masks,” Spiers said.
The pandemic has forced Lima schools to become more agile in what they do.
“We know that long-term plans aren’t set in stone. Everybody’s been extremely flexible. People know things can change in a moment’s notice, and our staff has been wonderful about that. The reason that we’ve been able to be in school four or five days a week since August the 12th is because we have the kind of staff that step up. They go outside their comfort zone, they cross over into other areas and they’re willing to help each other,” Ackerman said.
Likewise, Bluffton University has had to be flexible during the pandemic.
“We’ve learned to be more creative. For example, all of our athletic teams are playing right now, and we’ve had to figure out how to juggle practice times in our gymnasiums. We’ve had to figure out increased testing. We’ve had to figure out how to get students to and from other institutions safely, and I think that’s been a silver lining of the pandemic. I think we’re becoming more adept at learning when technology works and when it doesn’t,” Wood says.
Ohio Northern University has learned how to handle the faculty, staff and student’s mental health needs during the pandemic.
“We’ve certainly provided a lot of resources. Our counselors have provided opportunities for students to visit them if they needed to, sending out resources reminding them to take some breaks, to get some exercise, to get involved in things. Students could still gather in their organizations outside. We had a few events that just said let’s get together and thank each other after the first month of in-person classes. We had a socially distanced ice cream social with the marching band playing. For our staff, we thank them in a number of ways,” DiBiasio said.
Rhodes State has also recognized it’s important to recognize the mental health of staff and students.
“We’ve contracted with Harness Health Partners to provide mental support and help students learn to cope and help our employees to cope because there are new stressors out there that the pandemic caused,” Spiers said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.