Facing state-mandated school closures until May 15, the Orange County Schools Board of Education covered topics ranging from the budget to COVID-19 at its meeting on Monday.
Facing complications from COVID-19, the Board received a series of updates on the District’s four goals of safety, food, learning and "keeping people whole," a goal that includes addressing social and emotional needs of students, teachers and staff.
Chris Gammon, interim chief academic officer and executive director of curriculum for the district, said despite the sudden challenge the virus has posed, the district is working to provide a comprehensive, community-focused response to this crisis.
"There is not a blueprint for this work right now," Gammon said.
He said the district is looking to transition from distributing supplemental resources to core education in the coming weeks, and although the resources will mainly be available virtually, there will also be paper resources distributed either at meal distribution sites or possibly by delivery.
Sherita Cobb, the director of student support for OCS, said over 700 students have been provided with bagged lunches and other emergency food resources, including free breakfast and boxes of food to take home, throughout the course of the crisis.
Cobb also mentioned a recently-created online donation website set up to accommodate the purchase of more non-perishable resources for Orange County Families.
Budget and training
Rhonda Rath, the district’s chief financial officer, presented three additional expansions made to Superintendent Monique Felder’s budget for the 2021 fiscal year. The changes included reinstating nine additional paid workdays for teaching assistants, adding two new counselor positions shared between the district’s middle school and creating an additional support position at Gravelly Hill Middle School.
Connie Crimmins, director of exceptional children for the district, said the additional support would further foster the successful transitions of students in the district’s middle school alternative program into a traditional high school environment.
“The goal of the middle school alternative program is to provide a therapeutic environment,” Crimmons said. “While they are learning behavioral skills, their academic needs are met, with the ultimate goal of the supports within that smaller classroom being able to eventually transition into the general ed setting.”
The Board also unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with Engaging Schools, a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts that provides training and resources to educators, to revamp the District’s Code of Character, Conduct and Support.
The Board will likely begin training staff in this new code virtually sometime this summer.
Although the meeting’s setup was unconventional, and despite the challenges the school district faces amid school closure and uncertainty, Felder said the crisis has shown the power of the OCS community to band together.
"This is a team effort," Felder said. "We could spend the next few hours talking about the amazing work of this community.”