OGDEN — As the “soft closure” of Utah schools continues — currently scheduled to last through May 1 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — school staff members are trying to stay connected to the students they no longer see every day.
Odyssey Elementary Principal Sonja Davidson delivered 11 pairs of glasses to her students’ homes Thursday, standing out on their porches while they tried on their new frames in delight. She’ll continue delivering more on Friday, she said.
The glasses were provided through a combined Ogden and Weber school districts event held in February called SightFest, organized by Friends for Sight, a Utah nonprofit. Davidson said 20 Odyssey students were fitted for new pairs at the event and have been awaiting their arrival.
Usually, glasses are delivered to students’ schools after SightFest, but because schools are currently closed, school staff have passed out glasses when students have come to their schools to pick up lunches or school work — or they’ve delivered the glasses straight to students’ homes, like Davidson has.
“I just wanted to take all of them around, to do them as a home delivery,” Davidson said. “It was just a nice way to kind of check in with families. We miss them ... when they’re not at school, and not all of these kids have come by ... to do breakfast and lunch pickup.”
In addition to delivering glasses, school staff are visiting families to make sure they have food and school work.
The visits are slightly different considering the recent school closures, but they’re not new, Davidson said. Her staff has visited students’ homes long before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The school’s behavior interventionist, Davidson said, continues to check in with the families of students who usually receive additional behavior supports at school.
Jer Bates, spokesperson for the Ogden School District, said that school leadership and staff at other Ogden schools are also conducting visits and making phone calls to make sure students and families have what they need.
And Ogden schools are not alone in reaching out to families.
Lane Findlay, spokesperson for Weber School District, said late last week that he assisted school staff in visiting families in Washington Terrace to distribute school lunches and learning packets.
As a school, Odyssey puts a lot of emphasis on creating a positive environment through building relationships, Davidson said — which is more difficult to do virtually.
“We all chose to work in a school because we care about kids and ... we’re invested in their ... outcomes,” Davidson said, “and ... it feels a little surreal to not have them here.”
Bates said that, starting Thursday, students and teachers would have access to a new video platform that would make it easier for them to communicate. Parents and guardians need to sign a paper or electronic form allowing their students to participate, he said.
During Davidson’s Thursday visits, she fielded questions from students about when they’d be able to return to school and the reasons school was closed. Schools didn’t get much of a chance to prepare their students for the closures, since the announcement that schools would close on Monday, March 16, was made the previous Friday evening (well after school let out).
Davidson said the most common question she hears from her students is when schools will reopen, because most are eager to return.
While Davidson doesn’t yet have an answer to that question — it will depend on how the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds in the coming weeks — it’s satisfying for her to hear that her students look forward to coming back to school.
“Hearing that they miss us as much as we miss them is pretty sweet,” she said.