Dayton Public Schools goes online for at least first quarter

The sign outside Dayton's Valerie Elementary in July 2020 tells students that school staff love them and miss them.
The sign outside Dayton's Valerie Elementary in July 2020 tells students that school staff love them and miss them.

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Students' start date pushed back to Sept. 8

Dayton Public Schools announced Wednesday that it will join the list of districts that will begin the school year online for at least the first nine weeks.

Letters from Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli to both school staff and families say the start date for students is being pushed back another three weeks to Sept. 8, the same as Troy and Mad River schools have done. Returning school employees will start work Aug. 24, with training on technology and safety issues taking place the two weeks before students return.

Lolli said the district saw a need to change in mid-July because of the worsening COVID-19 situation in Montgomery County. After watching maps of where local COVID cases are clustered, the district worried that bringing students back to schools could increase spread of the disease, even with social distancing, masks and other steps.

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“Our new plan takes into consideration the current COVID-19 situation and prioritizes the safety of all staff and students,” Lolli says in the letters. “Parents should be prepared for virtual learning to potentially extend beyond the first nine weeks of school, depending on the COVID-19 situation at that time.”

DPS students of all grade levels will be issued a “ready pack” before the first day of classes, containing a Chromebook computer, a dry erase board and marker, a notebook, a pack of pencils, crayons or colored pencils and other supplies. One WiFi hotspot per family will be distributed for those who don’t have good access to the internet. Distribution dates will be announced soon.

Lolli said DPS is in “relatively good shape” on technology supplies because of their existing 1-to-1 computer program. They are waiting on more Chromebooks to be delivered in the next week or two from an additional grant.

District officials said breakfast and lunch will be available for students at designated spots daily, Monday through Friday. Locations and pickup times will be announced closer to the start of school.

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Lolli said the basic educational model will have all students in a given grade level watching the same pre-recorded lesson from a DPS teacher each morning. Then individual DPS teachers will meet online with their class of students to provide additional instruction, answer questions and assist with work.

The DPS letter to staff said in those individual sessions, “attendance will be taken, assignments given, grades taken and recorded.”

High school students might do English and social studies blocks Monday and Wednesday, and math and science blocks Tuesday and Thursday, all working with DPS teachers, Lolli said. Then on Fridays, they would log onto the Apex Learning platform, without a live teacher, for two elective classes.

Lolli said DPS is still working on plans for handling the hands-on career-tech programs at Ponitz Career Tech Center and the arts and music programs at Stivers.

District officials said teachers are expected to come to their school building and work a regular day from their classroom. Students are expected to be working on school at least four to five hours per day, depending upon the grade level.

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“We cannot have the more than 600 students disengaged from learning as we did in the spring,” Lolli wrote to school staff. “It is imperative that personal contact through these ‘coaching’ sessions keep students engaged and well supported. As we continue to fine tune the planning, many of you will have ideas that I hope you share with us.”

Lolli has previously said about 600 students (5 percent of the district) did not log on even once during two months of remote instruction last spring. DPS will have parent outreach efforts this fall, and if needed, truancy teams that can go to families’ homes if students are not showing up online.

The DPS letter to staff says if teachers need help running a Zoom or Google classroom, the district’s curriculum team will offer paid training sessions throughout August.

Lolli said “quite a large number” of teachers had expressed concerns about coming back in person, worried about either getting sick themselves or spreading the virus. Lolli said she understands that people are nervous about online learning, too, but asked for them to be patient in already difficult times.

Busing issue

Local charter schools have been complaining for weeks about the Dayton Public Schools’ plan to transport their students on RTA buses this fall. Lolli said Wednesday’s news means charter or private school students — assuming their schools stay with in-person classes — will ride regular yellow buses while DPS is in online-only mode. It’s unclear when those schools will get information on routing, pickup times and bus stop locations.