The Ottawa school district is taking the challenge of distance learning head on, the superintendent told the school board and community during Monday’s school board meeting.


Dr. Ryan Cobbs said the preparation for distant learning is off to a great start after just one day of meetings.


“We had some pretty awesome meetings taking place [Monday] morning,” Cobbs said. “They broke up into their grade level groups or their department groups. We had some real conversations about narrowing that focus. What is it that we want kids to know in order to meet our expectations prior to the end of the year. There is a great deal of work to do.”


Cobbs said definitive plans for each grade and classes at the secondary level will be unveiled by the end of the week, so students will be ready to start next Monday. He said earlier this would probably be a combination of packets and online learning.


“We will have a great plan in place,” Cobbs said. “Our teachers are amazing. There was some excitement in class today, which was great to see. Given the last week, we have seen mostly trepidation and the fear of the unknown. We have an opportunity to do something great with our staff.”


Cobbs said the process is going quicker than expected as the plans are in the beginning stages and expects a lot of collaboration between staff members in the coming days.


“They will be consistent across grade level,” Cobbs said. “All first grade teachers will have the same expectations for their kids with the ability to differentiate based upon student need. It will be consistent across classroom in terms when you get to the secondary level when you have an Algebra I teacher. Algebra I, what we expect of the kids will look very similar across all classrooms, even if they might have been different during the normal year.”


Cobbs said everyone involved was happy with how things came together on the first day.


“We have a lot of things to still work out,” he said. “Our teachers felt good about it. Our administrators felt good about it. There is still a great deal of unknown here. It is something we have not done before in this capacity. Distance and remote learning is not new to us. Distance and remote learning — when we don’t have access to all things for every kid or to provide appropriate services for every kid in that environment or even to have access to all the things we would in a normal capacity — are really impacting our ability to know how to do this. Over the course of the next week, we are going to do an awful lot of learning.”


Cobbs said secretaries and aides will be back in schools by Wednesday.


What we overlooked was the amount of phone calls we got [Monday] from people asking what the plan is and how they can address different items,” Cobbs said. “We will bring some aides back on Wednesday to set up a google calendar to get parents, especially at the secondary level, with their kids into the building to retrieve [personal belongings. We will have a number of our support staff helping do that.”


Smooth process


Cobbs said the delivering of student meals went as smooth as possible Monday. He said the school district gave out 572 breakfast/lunch meals.


“Our transportation staff and our food service staff did an awesome job,” Cobbs said. “It was about as smooth as you could possibly imagine. There were food busses parked in the parking lot and a very neat little line driving through. Our families were super excited and appreciative that this was being provided for them. I am sure as the word of mouth [travels], we will see more and more people show up for this service. If we can serve meals to all 2,400 kids, we would certainly be open to that.”


Cobbs said the food staff gave their all to make this program be successful.


“Our food service staff did a great job today, certainly meeting the unknown head on,” he said. “It was pretty awesome to watch. In times of crisis, it is an interesting observation to see who rises up and who does incredible things for our community. Certainly today, we had a number of staff members that something great to provide an incredible service for our community.”