SIDNEY – While they presently can’t be together, students and staff from local schools are working to maintain a sense of community with remote learning spirit weeks.
“Elementary schools, we’re all about togetherness,” Minster Elementary Principal Leanne Keller said. “I think our students are missing school, and our teachers are missing our students. We just want to stay connected and have a little fun as well as keeping the learning going.”
Schools across Ohio have been closed since March 17, and will remain closed through April, in response to an order from Gov. Mike DeWine that seeks to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During their time apart, school officials said it’s important that they maintain a sense of community.
“I would say it’s critical,” Keller said. “That is the most difficult part of this, missing each other, not being together every day. We’re trying to find other ways.”
One way Minster Elementary and other schools, such as Botkins Local School and Fort Loramie Local Schools, are maintaining a sense of community is by hosting remote spirit weeks.
“We just kind of wanted to create some camaraderie and unity with the kids being at home,” Botkins Guidance Counselor Krista Meyer said. “Definitely important for them to still feel connected to each other and connected to their school while they’re at home.”
The remote spirit weeks, which are similar to spirit weeks the schools regularly host, encourage students to dress up for a daily theme.
Botkins’ spirit week began with an America Monday theme that encouraged students to wear red, white and blue. The school then had a Touchdown Tuesday theme with students wearing clothing of their favorite sports teams.
Botkins’ Wacky Wednesday theme encourages students to dress in a single color like a crayon. For Throwback Thursday, students are encouraged to wear outfits from past decades.
The school’s spirit week concludes with Trojan Pride Friday with students encouraged to show Botkins pride.
“We just encourage them to find things around the house, be creative,” Meyer said.
Fort Loramie’s spirit week began with Super Hero Day on Monday, which encouraged students to dress in honor of health care providers and essential personnel on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. Tuesday’s theme was Old Person Day with students dressing in honor of the generation that is most at risk to the coronavirus.
For Dude Shoe Day on Wednesday, students are encouraged to show off their Dudes or Dudettes or their style of home school comfort. Thursday’s theme is Jersey Day and encourages students to dress in honor of their favorite teams that can’t play right now.
Fort Loramie’s spirit week concludes on Friday with the theme of Red & Black Loramie Gear.
Minster’s spirit week began Monday with Pajama Day, encouraging students to be comfy while learning. The school then had a Parent & Pet Day theme on Tuesday that encouraged students to show love and give hugs to those who support their learning at home.
For USA Day on Wednesday, Minster students are encouraged to show their appreciation for leaders who are keeping everyone safe. Thursday’s theme is Super Hero Day and honors those who work in health care.
Minster’s remote spirit week concludes Friday with Orange & Black Wildcat Day, which honors the school and its teachers.
“We’re trying to honor those who are making the tough decisions we’re all dealing with right now and also honoring those on the front lines, the health care workers,” Keller said. “And certainly our parents.”
Sixth grade teacher Lori Brunswick proposed the idea for Minster’s remote learning spirit week after she saw her niece’s school had one. She loved the opportunity it provided to engage with students.
“You can imagine it may be unsettling for little ones used to being with their teacher each weekday to have routines changed like this,” Brunswick said. “So we hope to connect with the students through our Google meets and pictures Mrs. Keller is sharing on the website, just trying to wrap our arms around them in a virtual hug kind of way.”
Schools, including Botkins, Fort Loramie Minster, are sharing photos submitted by families on their websites and social media pages so the entire community can view them.
“If they can look on the Twitter page or can look on our website and see some of the other students are doing the same things they are,” Meyer said, “hopefully that makes them all feel that we’re all still together some way.”
It’s been difficult being apart, Keller said, but feedback has shown the students and teachers have enjoyed their opportunities to connect through video chats.
And now with the remote spirit weeks, they have one more way to remain connected while they’re separated.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all their smiling faces,” Keller said.
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