The Ohio School for the Deaf opened in 1829 and is the fifth oldest residential deaf school in the United States. We enroll approximately 170 students each year with around half being residential. OSD provides education for infants and toddlers in the Alice Cogswell Center (ACC)/Early Learning Center (ELC), grades K-12, and a post-high school program, 4Plus for students through age 21. We also feature a Statewide Service department that provides evaluations and support to school districts around Ohio. OSD traditionally offers a variety of summer camps focusing on STEAM, athletics, robotics, culinary skills, driver’s education, ASL instruction and more.
Prior to March 2020
Prior to March 2020, our educational services were provided on campus, off campus field trips and other educational activities. Students shared technology in the school and dorms. Residential planned evening on/off campus activities. The ACC/ELC provided direct services during the school day. It was also exploring implementing parent classes, as well as starting outreach to other school districts identifying needs to find appropriate supports and educational placements. Statewide Services provided a weekly ETR clinic and made evaluation visits to schools. Parent communication varied among grade levels, however the administration holds a yearly stakeholder meeting with parent and community members’ involvement.
During March-June 2020
Beginning in mid-March, we quickly shifted to telework and providing instruction via distance learning. Staff and students received new Apple technology. Educational staff members were able to create hands on materials for students and families. Teachers in all grades utilized iMovie and YouTube to create, edit and then share homemade videos. Some used Google Classroom to post and receive electronic assignments. Zoom, Google Meet and FaceTime was used to meet with students and families to provide individualized supports and instruction.
The ACC/ELC worked cooperatively with a curriculum company, Experience Early Learning, to accommodate thematic topics and continue learning at home through Google Classroom to track daily available assignments. ACC/ELC teachers strived to be developmentally appropriate, and often provided direct coaching to families in order to have engaging language support through dramatic play, creative artwork, and outdoor learning experiences.
Residential staff planned activities through Zoom and Facebook for additional engagement for our dorm students. OSD relied on emails, social media, and e-Notify system, an automated system that sends text messages and phone calls, to connect with parents as well as personal connections to many. Graduation was a virtual ceremony with pre-recorded videos from various speakers.
How the School Rose to the Challenge
Prior to the pandemic, OSD did not have 1:1 technology. Our plan was to provide Apple products such as iPads, Apple TVs, and MacBooks to teachers and staff this spring with a roll out of iPads to each student in the fall. That all changed when we shifted to distance learning. On March 16, all staff were provided Apple products to take home to learn and use. Initially, we were supposed to be closed for three weeks.
When OSD learned that students would not return to campus the rest of the school year, we distributed iPads to students. Local families were able to pick up student devices on campus while those who lived further away were shipped a new device. With providing 1:1 technology, this resulted in students gaining skills on how to use various learning platforms such as Google Classroom, navigate Zoom meetings, and over all on-line etiquette. Students have been able to take pictures, make videos and connect with their teachers and classmates.
Where the School is Now
With our summer camps, we reach students all around Ohio virtually! Typically with our summer camps, we had in-person camps with students staying in the dorms. However, now we can provide resources with sending kits to families along with videos. Staff engage with students through live sessions. Most staff is still working from home. Families have been surveyed about their child’s distance learning experience. This will help with determine areas of strength and improvement if we continue with distance learning. We are also gauging an interest from families who might send their child back to campus if classes resume in the fall. .
Looking ahead is a major part of our work at the moment. We are meeting with officials from the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Department of Education for guidance. We are considering possible scenarios for the fall if we remain with distance learning or will meet in person. We are looking at academic and residential programming and what the fall will look like. The information collected from family surveys will help with what resources would be beneficial to help students become more successful with distance learning if we remained closed or if we were to use a hybrid educational method.
Superintendent: Dr. Lou Maynus, Ed.D.