Trotwood-Madison school officials said Wednesday that most of their tornado-displaced families hope to stay with the school district, but they called transportation planning a nightmare and said a significant need for donations remains as some families lost everything.
Superintendent Tyrone Olverson said some leaders of Trotwood, Dayton, Northridge and other affected schools plan to meet next week to figure out busing and other issues.
“For students that are displaced, (busing) is really a district’s responsibility, either their home district or the receiving district,” Olverson said. “That’s what a lot of our conversations will be about next week. It’s a logistical nightmare with the number of students who are displaced (to a variety of locations).”
Many students who have had to move in with friends or into hotels miles away qualify for protection under the federal McKinney-Vento program for homeless students, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Those guidelines say schools should make best efforts to help students attend their previous schools to ensure educational stability.
Olverson said school districts will need to plot out maps of where students are living now, what school or district those students are going to attend and how busing departments can work together to get them there.
Trotwood Treasurer Janice Allen said she expects student movement to continue in the coming months, making school staffing decisions difficult as student enrollment numbers may fluctuate more than usual.
In the meantime, with the first day of school in Trotwood and Dayton one month away (Aug. 12), Trotwood officials said people interested in donating can contact some specific community partners.
“We’re trying to make sure that when the doors open, that we can accommodate those students for their specific needs, from backpacks to school supplies and uniforms,” school board President Denise Moore said.
Olverson said Crayons to Classrooms is collecting backpacks and school supplies and will deliver stocked backpacks to Trotwood students before the school year. Crayons to Classrooms is accepting Disaster Relief Fund donations to help families across the region at dc2c.org/donate/.
Shoes for the Shoeless will hold an event with Trotwood schools from 10 a.m. to noon July 24, offering shoes and socks to tornado-affected families. Olverson said the school district’s “parent engagers” are trying to notify all families that are eligible. Catapult Creative also is collecting toys for tornado-affected children.
The school district is looking for community partners to help 226 tornado-affected students ranging from preschool age through middle school who are in need of school uniforms. Trotwood parent engagement specialist Ella Jordan-Isaac, at 937-854-3050 x1181, has details of clothing sizes and colors needed.
With some students having lived through a life-threatening night, Olverson said Trotwood schools will have its social workers and mental health specialists working with students on post-traumatic stress issues.
Middle school secretary Chaunte Bennett said parents she has talked to have largely had concerns about busing. Milt Pearson, one of the district’s “parent engagers” said some families he talked to were surprised to learn they could still attend Trotwood schools after being displaced out of the city, and are now determined to do so.
“I don’t think any of our kids are planning on leaving us, so we’re not going to give up on them,” Pearson said.
And although there are logistical hurdles to starting a school year after tornadoes ripped Trotwood apart, school officials said getting back into a routine may help many students.
“The sooner we can get these kids back to having a sense of normalcy — while understanding that some are going through PTSD — that will allow them to understand that they’re safe and cared for,” Olverson said. “They know these teachers, they know the students here.”
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