The Board of Education members discuss the early success of the school district’s hybrid learning model amid the coronavirus pandemic during a meeting in September. (Photo courtesy Martin Fiedler, Just Right TV Productions) By MADDY VITALEWith two weeks into the start of the 2020-21 school year, Ocean City school officials said students are working hard as they navigate new ways to learn during the COVID-19 pandemic.And they are doing it well, Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor noted during a Board of Education meeting Wednesday night.“Just in speaking to a number of teachers over two and a half weeks, every teacher commented about how motivated the students are this year and how much they miss school, the teachers, their friends and the school routine,” Dr. Taylor said. “We have not had another issue with the students not complying. Whether social distancing, everyone has adhered to what they need to. Kudos to the students.”The first day of school was Sept. 8. The district offers in its “Return to School Plan” a blend of remote learning and in-person instruction or the option of all-virtual instruction.In the hybrid model of learning, the students have been broken into two groups to ensure social distancing. They attend school two days a week and learn remotely for three days. The Virtual Academy option is for those who do not attend in-person instruction.Board of Education members agreed at Wednesday’s meeting that there have been and will be challenges. However, they emphasized that the students, faculty and the community continue to work together, with the students always put first.Educators are coming up with ideas of how to better help parents and students through the new ways of teaching and learning, School Board Vice President Jacqueline McAlister said.McAlister said Intermediate School Principal Mike Mattina brought ideas to the Board of Education to help parents with teaching their children.Intermediate School Principal Michael Mattina is helping parents with the new learning models.Since the pandemic, parents have had to act as teachers at times with the virtual learning models.“Principal Mattina had two big ideas to provide extra support for students and parents. It is very helpful to hear what the teachers say before you try to help your child. It is intended for teachers and parents so that parents could more effectively teach,” McAlister explained. “It is really a wonderful idea. The Intermediate School will track the success.”School officials stressed how the community has really come together to help the district.The Ocean City Gardens Civic Association donated more than $4,000 to the Primary and Intermediate School for tents, mask clips and mats.It was an example of people outside of the schools who are making a difference, School Board President Joseph Clark said.“I want to thank the Gardens Civic Association for helping us fill in the gaps. We can’t do this without a community like this,” Clark said.He added that in a year of uncertainty, when teachers, parents and students have to do so many things different, there will be “bumps along the way.”But overall, he said, the district will be a success.“I think we are on the right track and we will continue to move forward. There will be bumps along the way,” Clark emphasized. “I want to thank all who really put everything they can into this to make this a success. We polled everyone. We are doing the best we can. Thank you for a great start to the 2020-21 school year.”Board member Cecilia Gallelli-Keyes commended the city for a program that helps with childcare. The city is doing the program in partnership with the Ocean City Tabernacle Son Club.“I think it is wonderful that Ocean City is offering childcare for our community,” Gallelli-Keyes pointed out.She also spoke about how the district has had to overcome many hurdles with the new learning models.“Our faculty and staff — I want to commend them,” Gallelli-Keyes added. “Dr. Taylor has led with compassion. Thank you to all of the parents who have stepped up as we work together to provide safe schools. Thank you to all who have dedicated their time in a community that leads by example.”For more information on Ocean City schools, visit www.oceancityschools.org.