Dayton schools online for seven weeks upon January return

Students at Ruskin Elementary in Dayton attended school in-person on a hybrid model in November. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Students at Ruskin Elementary in Dayton attended school in-person on a hybrid model in November. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The vast majority of Dayton Public Schools students will do their classes online when when their coronavirus-related six-week holiday break ends Jan. 4.

Dayton’s school board unanimously approved the plan Tuesday night, and DPS has committed to staying online longer than any other local school district so far, saying the earliest they would return to face-to-face instruction is Feb. 22.

Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the hybrid model the district tried in November — two days a week in-person, three days remote — was not effective. She said DPS will stick with either fully remote or fully in-person approaches in early 2021, and hopes not to bounce back and forth, so families have stability.

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“In hybrid, sometimes we would have two kids, three kids, five kids (in a classroom), and teachers would be teaching to those students and also teaching online,” she said. “We feel like we need to be either one or the other as we start off.”

DPS online students will continue to work with DPS teachers. The only DPS students doing partial in-person work starting Jan. 4 will be some high school students in career tech, advanced placement or arts magnet programs, plus certain special education and English as a second language students.

Several local school districts have already announced they’ll do online classes for their first week or two upon returning in January — many citing COVID-19 reasons, to give a longer buffer after families interact at holiday celebrations.

Northmont and Miamisburg hope to return in-person Jan. 11. For Centerville and Trotwood, it’s Jan. 19. Xenia won’t come back in-person until Feb. 1. But Dayton’s Feb. 22 target is the latest locally.

And even that date, like so much of this school year, is not a certainty.

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“We’re going to continue to monitor the (COVID) trends,” Lolli said. “We were very eager to get our students back face to face in a hybrid model (this fall), as were 65% of our parents,” Lolli said. “We need to be as careful this time to make sure we don’t bring students back too soon and then have to convert back to a remote model again.”

DPS started this school year fully online, then brought back some small groups gradually in October. On Nov. 9, the full district went to a hybrid model, but that only lasted two weeks, as COVID-19 cases and quarantines surged, and the district faced high staff and student absences.

With the week of Nov. 23 already off for Thanksgiving, DPS decided to hold no classes at all until Jan. 4 — the only local district to stop classes completely during that period.

Tracy Rowland, whose daughter is a senior at Stivers, said it was hard to see DPS do a uniform six-week shutdown for all students, when some wanted to keep going.

“With a senior who has (Advanced Placement) classes, my daughter told me she doesn’t really have a choice,” Rowland said. “They’re still meeting with their teachers because they have AP exams in May and need to stay on track.”

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Lolli and teachers union president David Romick on Tuesday praised those teachers who have continued to connect with students informally while Dayton schools are closed.

Lolli said she hopes with Montgomery County improving from purple to red in the health alert system this month, and with vaccines arriving soon, that students will be able to go back face-to-face Feb. 22.

She said in mid-to-late January, the district will survey families to get their opinions on that plan.

After questions from school board member Will Smith, Lolli said art, music and physical education teachers who were temporarily laid off this fall will not be laid off during this remote learning period.

She said they will serve as substitute teachers, to address the district’s significant staffing problems.

DPS is planning daily school meal delivery for students starting Jan. 4, like they did in September. Parents can sign up online at dpsrestart.com or call 937-542-3950.

Winter sports athletic practices will resume the week of Dec. 28.