Pandemic e-learning inspires central Ohio neighbors to create new business

Local News

LEWIS CENTER, Ohio (WCMH) – A couple of Central Ohio neighbors are developing a business model to help fill a growing demand in the COVID-19 era.

When the pandemic unexpectedly forced schools to close, 13-year veteran teacher Jenny Dodson decided to reconsider her career.

“I love, love, love my job of teaching, but I wasn’t doing well with the inconsistency, not knowing when we were going to be in the classroom, when we were going to be put out. It was very emotional in the spring for us,” Dodson explained.

In July, she resigned from teaching to stay home with her children.

“That lasted about 72 hours,” she laughed.

Across the street, Dodson’s neighbor, Emily Riscili, and her family were also grappling with the stay-at-home order. In the spring, she was navigating e-learning for a Kindergartner and second grader, as well as keeping up with a toddler.

“I got really nervous for my kid. I wanted to have a teacher for them on days when they weren’t in the classroom,” Riscili said. “I came to [Dodson] and I said, ‘Can you help me out?’”

Dodson and Riscili soon realized they had a winning combination for teachers no longer teaching and students learning outside of the classroom. The duo launched Web Student Services, LLC.

“A majority of what we’re offering we know can start and can exist because the current situation we’re in is constantly changing,” said Dodson.

They created a Facebook group for the new business and it quickly attracted other families from nearby Olentangy Local Schools. Fifteen students committed within the first 48 hours and more than 70 signed up by mid-August.

The district is starting the school year with a hybrid learning model, where students alternate between online and in-person learning.

“I want my children to be in a room with a certified teacher who can facilitate their learning with the best practices so they have a really strong foundation going forward,” Riscili said.

Dodson added, “It’s our job to facilitate the work that the classroom teacher provides. So we’re not stepping in as their classroom teacher, we’re stepping in to support their classroom teacher.”

Web Student Services, LLC will have a physical building with enough space for a number of small groups under the guidance of certified teachers, in a pod learning situation. The teachers will be available for tutoring, homework help and facilitating each student’s online learning.

“We are advocates for school, we want our kids in school. So the best thing that could happen for us is that school goes back full time and we step back from our services and maybe change to homework help or private tutoring,” Dodson explained.

Dodson and Riscili ask clients for a three month commitment. Though all of their current students attend Olentangy Local Schools, they welcome students from other districts.

They explained the business model is designed with the flexibility that is necessary during a rapidly changing year.

“We’re going to adapt, just like we’re doing right now to adapt to the school situation,” Riscili said. “And as things continue to change throughout the school year, we’ll adapt at that point as well.”

You can get particular information about the company by emailing:
webstudentservices@gmail.com.

Coronavirus in Ohio resources:

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