First area public schools open with students returning to classrooms

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Bowman Elementary School opened Monday with special precautions designed to limit spread of the new coronavirus.

Nervous parents watched on Monday as their children — wearing face masks — walked into buildings for their first day of school at Lebanon and Bellbrook schools.

It was the first time students at an area public school attended in-person since mid-March, when schools went completely online due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Parent Shane Taylor said he was feeling stressed as he dropped off his children at Lebanon’s Bowman Elementary.

“A little chaotic now. I’ve got all three of them to worry about,” he said. “I think they need that social interaction.”

Lebanon is the first public school locally to bring students back in-person five days a week, while a little less than half of Bellbrook students started Monday on their hybrid, or staggered, schedule. Also Monday, some juniors went back at the Warren County Career Center.

Brookville will start fully in-person classes on Wednesday, and several Catholic and private schools will begin classes Wednesday or Thursday.

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A long line of parents wait to drop off their students at Bowman Elementary School on the first day of school in the Lebanon school district.

A long line of parents wait to drop off their students at Bowman Elementary School on the first day of school in the Lebanon school district.

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A long line of parents wait to drop off their students at Bowman Elementary School on the first day of school in the Lebanon school district.

Lebanon parent Heidi Hurst complimented the district on communications and “keeping things as normal as possible” as she filled out papers for her kindergartner at Bowman Elementary School.

Although skeptical about masking to prevent COVID-19, Horst said she was cooperating with special precautions mandated by school and state officials.

“If that’s what it takes to get them in school, I’m willing to do that,” said Horst who also has 8th and 11th graders in the local schools.

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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced two weeks ago that masks would be mandatory for all K-12 students, with a small handful of exceptions.

“Students will be provided with opportunities to remove their face coverings throughout the day,” a Lebanon schools statement said. “Opportunities to remove face coverings will include recess, lunch, outdoor instruction, and scheduled times throughout the day for teachers to take classes outside or to larger space areas in the school where students can distance.”

Principal Sheri McHenry showed some of the special precautions taken this year, including six-foot squares marked onto the gym floor to keep kids socially distanced as they warmed up.

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Superintendent Todd Yohey said Lebanon district had two staff members test positive last week for COVID-19. The staff members are isolating at home to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

But on Monday morning, Yohey expressed satisfaction with “starting the school year with the least amount of stress possible.”

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Principal Sheri McHenry stands in the middle of a square drawn on a gym floor to demonstrate how students will be socially distance during class.

Credit: Lawrence Budd

Principal Sheri McHenry stands in the middle of a square drawn on a gym floor to demonstrate how students will be socially distance during class.

Credit: Lawrence Budd

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Principal Sheri McHenry stands in the middle of a square drawn on a gym floor to demonstrate how students will be socially distance during class.

Credit: Lawrence Budd

Credit: Lawrence Budd

As the school day ended, Yohey remained satisfied.

“I haven’t had any reports of any issues,” Yohey said, including no one refusing to wear a mask. “Everyone was cooperative.”

“Now we are looking forward to Day 2,” the superintendent concluded.

Bellbrook-Sugarcreek schools are trying a hybrid, or staggered, model for the first three weeks of the school year.

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Staff at Bell Creek Intermediate School in Bellbrook prepare for end-of-day dismissal after the first day of classes on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Staff at Bell Creek Intermediate School in Bellbrook prepare for end-of-day dismissal after the first day of classes on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.

Credit: Jim Noelker

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Staff at Bell Creek Intermediate School in Bellbrook prepare for end-of-day dismissal after the first day of classes on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Superintendent Doug Cozad said about 22% of students are doing the fully online option for the first semester. The other 78% are split into two groups, with Group A attending school Mondays and Thursdays, and Group B attending Tuesdays and Fridays. Students will work online the other three days of the week.

Cozad said Monday’s first day of classes went “pretty smoothly.”

“I think the phase-in start was a good idea,” Cozad said. “It allows us to tweak or refine things while we’re not at 100% capacity. That’s probably the best piece — that we’ve been able to socially distance folks really effectively, because there’s only about 39% of our kids in school (at one time).”

After three weeks of that, Bellbrook’s goal is to have all students return to five-days-per-week in-person school the day after Labor Day.

“At our board meeting last Thursday we discussed the idea of possibly extending that, but Sept. 8 is still the goal,” Cozad said. “Before we make any decision like that, we want to see how it’s going in-person. We want to get a week or week and a half in to really get an idea of how things are going.”

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Bellbrook Intermediate released their students after the first day of school Monday August 17, 2020. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Bellbrook Intermediate released their students after the first day of school Monday August 17, 2020 JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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Bellbrook Intermediate released their students after the first day of school Monday August 17, 2020. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF


Back To School

Let the Dayton Daily News be your guide to the new school year and all of the challenges districts face in this coronavirus pandemic. Visit daytondailynews.com/back-to-school to see your school’s plans and other stories related to the new school year.