Dayton schools to hold no classes for next 6 weeks, go to school in June instead

Students at Ruskin Elementary in Dayton were attending school in-person two days last week and two days this week. But Dayton Public Schools will stop classes completely on Nov. 23 and come back Jan. 4, citing COVID-19 issues. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Students at Ruskin Elementary in Dayton were attending school in-person two days last week and two days this week. But Dayton Public Schools will stop classes completely on Nov. 23 and come back Jan. 4, citing COVID-19 issues. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

District will have no sports during the time off.

Dayton Public Schools will take a six-week winter break with no classes at all — neither in-person nor online — then go to school through the month of June to make up for the lost time.

Dayton’s school board approved the calendar change Tuesday night by a 7-0 vote after discussing the impact the ongoing COVID-19 surge was having on school staffing and student engagement.

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DPS students will finish this week’s classes first. They already were going to be off the full Thanksgiving week, plus the standard two weeks for Christmas break. The change is that students will not have classes the weeks of Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We have an increased number of student and staff absences across the board,” Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said. “We’re hoping that if we close down for this period after the holiday … that when we come back in January we will be at full force and ready to go and to finish out the school year strong.”

Lolli admitted Wednesday there’s no guarantee the COVID and staffing situations will be better in January, but said, “I’m trying to be an eternal optimist.”

Many health officials have been warning about the possibility of COVID-19 spread during extended family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This move means that after this week, students, teachers and school staff will not be mixing again in school until 10 days after Christmas Day.

DPS is the first traditional school district locally to take this step. The Montgomery County Educational Service Center announced a similar change this week for its two small learning centers that serve students with disabilities.

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Some other districts, including Fairborn and Trotwood, recently announced that in-person classes would stop, and all students would learn online from Thanksgiving break until January. But in Dayton’s case, classes will completely stop.

The new last day of the school year for students will be June 29. Lolli said the district needs some academic continuity, “to start to close the achievement gap that we’re seeing developing across the board in our students because we haven’t seen them consistently.”

Lolli said most DPS elementary schools have 3-5 teachers out per day, and middle schools and high schools have 7-9 out on average. Some of those are due to COVID cases or quarantines, and some due to ordinary illnesses and leave time.

She said the district has very few substitutes available, and has had situations where teachers handled two classes, or central office staff substitute-taught, or schools gathered students with no teacher in a cafeteria, where aides or others helped them get logged on to virtual lessons.

“It’s very difficult to maintain that coverage and not wear people out,” she said.

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In a letter to DPS staff Thursday, Lolli said some online classes have had as few as five students log in.

“The majority of our students need their teachers in front of them, teaching to them and not to a screen,” Lolli’s letter said.

She said another reason for the move is to avoid another layoff/furlough of the 241 staff members who did not work the first nine weeks, when the district was totally remote. Dayton was one of the few districts to lay off staff during online learning.

The current plan is to return to a mixed in-person/online model Jan. 4, then full in-person school in February, but DPS officials say they will continue to monitor changes in the COVID-19 data and adjust as needed.

Lolli said the district is working with unions to figure out how they’ll handle pay schedules both in the upcoming weeks and in June, trying not to leave hourly workers stranded in the holiday season.

The district will resume distribution of school lunches during the upcoming break, both from school pickup sites and with some delivery efforts. Parents will have an opportunity to sign up soon. DPS also will share social service resources with families.

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Lolli said Wednesday there will be no school sports during the six-week break. She encouraged coaches to stay connected with student-athletes so they’re ready Jan. 4.

School board members Dion Sampson and Jocelyn Rhynard asked what the district could do to keep students somewhat connected academically during the break.

Lolli said online educational programs such as MindPlay and SuccessMaker would still be available, as would the videotaped lesses that the district’s curriculum department posted earlier this year. Beyond that, she said parents could encourage their kids to keep reading and to write about their thoughts as a stress relief method.

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