Kettering schools ‘not willing to roll the dice’; board OKs all remote classes

A community forum Thursday night on Kettering City Schools’ plan to resume classes lasted more than four hours. SUBMITTED
A community forum Thursday night on Kettering City Schools’ plan to resume classes lasted more than four hours. SUBMITTED



KETTERING – Students in Kettering City Schools will start the year online, but administrators said some will get face-to-face instruction in small groups.

Special needs, career technology center students and those needing counseling will be among those permitted in buildings on a limited basis when school resumes Sept. 8 in the district of about 7,900 students.

Superintendent Scott Inskeep said his recommendation ― approved unanimously by the school board Friday morning — to eliminate an in-person option for all students in the first nine weeks was influenced by the “volume” of those in the district who said they favored a return to in-person classrooms.

A community forum Thursday night on Kettering City Schools’ plan to resume classes lasted more than four hours. SUBMITTED
A community forum Thursday night on Kettering City Schools’ plan to resume classes lasted more than four hours. SUBMITTED

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

That sentiment “caused us to then begin to have to look at could we accomplish that social distancing in some of our schools of our schools or all of our schools,” Inskeep said Friday, after a four-hour community forum on the issue Thursday night.

“It depended on the building as to whether or that social distancing could be accomplished,” he added. “I know at Fairmont (High School) it would have been virtually impossible to do that.”

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District officials also said Montgomery County’s status change based on Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s designations was a strong factor in the decision.

After Kettering announced its plan to offer options for both online and in-person instruction, the county’s designation increased to a red alert Level 3 public health emergency. Areas with that status should hold classes remotely, Public-Health Dayton & Montgomery County has recommended.

Noting that a return to “normalcy” is the district’s goal, Kettering board President Jim Ambrose said the district should not take any undue risks.

“This virus is not going away,” he added. “I am not willing to roll the dice on the children’s lives in this community.”

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Inskeep said “learning is going to look differently in the coming months.”

There will be a “strong emphasis on social and emotional learning supports,” said Dan Von Handorf, assistant superintendent.

“In the fall, we have the ability to bring small groups of kids into the building that need assistance – like those students with severe disabilities,” Von Handorf added.

“It’s difficult to teach them online,” he said. “So, since we’re not shut down under a stay-at-home order we’ll have the opportunity to bring those students with those needs into the building in a safe environment to interact in-person with their teachers.”

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Inskeep also said the district intends to maintain in-person, extracurricular activities.

“Unless we receive some direction from the state” to “cease and desist those activities, we see those as moving forward,” he said.

Among those addressing the board at the Thursday night forum was Kettering parent Katie Richard, who said her children have received a “first-class education to this point” in the school district.

But she asked the board at the forum “to consider the needs and the unique situation of this community and not simply reflexively adopt online only education simply because all the surrounding school districts are doing this.”

Richard said she read PHDMC’s recommendation. “However, I don’t feel that our county can be painted with a broad brush.”

She said Kettering is not in a high infection rate area, as some other county communities are “and I don’t feel that their education plans should be our education plans.”

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A Fairmont High School student’s mother, who said she teaches in another school district, told the school board Thursday night the district should return to face-to-face instruction.

“Students can be safe at school with this virus in our lives. School officials will need to stress the importance of everyone doing their part,” the woman said. “In-person schooling families should make a commitment” to social distancing, limiting contacts and wearing masks.

Karen Gouge, president of the Kettering Education Association, the district’s teachers’ union, said teachers want to instruct students in-person, but noted the PHDMC’s recommendation.

“The difficult reality is that returning to school face to face during this pandemic is not safe for our teachers, students or support staff,” Gouge said.

She pointed to a KEA survey that showed 66% of respondents favored remote instruction for safety reasons.

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