COVID-19 transforms learning experiences

Sidney High School 2020 graduation ceremony

Sidney High School 2020 graduation ceremony

Courtesy photo

SIDNEY — COVID-19 has greatly impacted the operations of Sidney City Schools. The district, like schools all over, has had to shift how we function–from the shutdown in the spring to adapting to new learning options and more this fall – our teachers, staff, and administration have shown dedication and adaptability to new processes and approaches to bring quality instruction in the midst of uncertainty due to the pandemic, especially with remote learning.

Tiffany Rank, Sidney City Schools communications coordinator has submitted the following report:

COVID-19 Sidney City Schools dismissed for Spring Break 2020 knowing schools would be temporarily closed due to the looming novel coronavirus. By the end of that break, plans forged to ensure students had access to daily meals and online educational engagement. As time passed, we learned we would be off for much longer; our staff worked to develop a more regimented distance learning schedule, and devices/wifi hotspots were provided to families in need. The goal for teachers for the remainder of the year was to engage with students and strengthen the knowledge already acquired to lessen learning deficits heading into the summer.

Over the summer, district administration worked to develop a comprehensive fall plan to meet the needs of families. Returning with in-person learning was a priority but we also acknowledged that some families would not feel comfortable sending their child to school. Since the start of the school year, Sidney City Schools has been able to provide in-person and remote learning instruction.

All of the extra effort to adjust to the new normal by staff, students, and families has been beyond commendable.

Class of 2020 Graduation For the Class of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck at a pivotal time in life. Their high school careers ended abruptly and they missed out on rites of passages like prom, senior day, clap out and awards ceremonies.

Sidney High School and district administration felt it important our seniors not be deprived of one of the most important rites of passage – graduation.

Graduation was rescheduled for mid-June, hoping that some of the restrictions of large gatherings would be lifted. Following tradition, the ceremony was held at Sidney Memorial Stadium, which aided in making the plan work. Spacing the graduates 6 feet apart across the field, limiting the number of guests per student, and creating offset seating for guests throughout the entire stadium, the SHS Class of 2020 was able to have one of the most traditional graduation ceremonies in the area.

“It was important to us that we make this happen,” said Sidney Superintendent Bob Humble, “and we know it meant a lot to the families of the graduating class as well. These students were short changed a lot of traditions and faced a lot of uncertainty heading in the future, whether they were bound for college or the workforce. It was nice to be able to provide a little normalcy for them.”

federal grant money supports technology infrastructure

Despite the ongoing challenges related to Covid-19, Sidney City Schools found opportunities to introduce new technology into the district to improve digital learning for both students and staff.

Strictly with grant funds procured through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund and Broadband Ohio Connectivity, the district was able to purchase 955 Chromebook computers, 255 of which are LTE enabled and do not require internet/WiFi connectivity.

“Spring distance learning exposed a great technology deficit throughout the district,” said Sidney Curriculum Director Brooke Gessler. “The use of these grant funds allowed Sidney City Schools to move more quickly into a 1:1 ratio of devices to students without touching operational funds.”

Whittier Early Childhood Center

Whittier Early Childhood Center opened its doors at the start of the 2019-2020 school year to serve children ages three to five, both typically developing and with special needs.

Prior to the spring shutdown, Whittier Early Childhood Center enrollment was nearly 300 with capacity for the center being 320. Enrollment at WECC for the 2020-2021 school year, as of January 22, is over 250.

WECC successfully obtained Ohio Department of Education state licensure for preschool centers and is currently working on their Step Up to Quality rating, with the ultimate goal of obtaining a 5-star rating. To accomplish this, WECC staff are working to develop and implement policies and procedures to present children with the best learning environment.

Parents interested in enrolling their 3-5 year old child should call the school to learn more. Preschool screenings are held each month at WECC.

financial picture & earned income tax levy

The district has stretched dollars as far as possible and made significant cuts without eroding educational quality, including staff reductions through the reconfiguration of the schools for the 2019-2020 school year, and additional staff reductions for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. Total reductions and changes for these three school years result in savings of approximately $5.3 million in annual expenses.

Even with these drastic measures to reduce annual expenses, local funding is still necessary to sustain the district operations.

Having failed the 7.3 Mill Emergency Levy multiple times in 2020, Sidney City Schools Board of Education and administration sought feedback from the community. After sharing a digital survey, assessing the responses, and further discussing options with members of our community, the Board has decided to ask the community to support a 0.75% Earned Income Tax on May 4.

The Earned Income Tax levy would generate $3.3 million annually. An earned income tax only taxes W-2 compensation or self-employment income that is subject to the self-employment tax for residents of our district. The earned income tax will not tax Social Security, unemployment income, investment income or most pensions.

The district has published a series of informational videos about school funding, financial history, the income tax levy and more. These videos and more information about the levy can also be viewed at

Please visit our website to learn more about Sidney City Schools. Our social media accounts highlight student and staff achievements and can be found by searching @sidneyschools on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For any specific questions, email [email protected]

Sidney High School 2020 graduation ceremony High School 2020 graduation ceremony Courtesy photo