2 local schools win state honor for working with military families

Students at Beverly Gardens Elementary unfurl a new banner recognizing them as a Purple Star military-friendly school, while state schools superintendent Paolo DeMaria (right) speaks to students. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Students at Beverly Gardens Elementary unfurl a new banner recognizing them as a Purple Star military-friendly school, while state schools superintendent Paolo DeMaria (right) speaks to students. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Two local schools are among the first eight in Ohio to receive the state’s Purple Star Award for their commitment to serving military-connected students and families.

Beverly Gardens Elementary School in the Mad River district and Trebein Elementary School in Beavercreek were honored this week, and state schools Superintendent Paolo DeMaria visited Beverly Gardens on Thursday.

“They have families that are deployed, maybe mom or dad are leaving and going overseas,” said Beverly Gardens Principal Cristal Fields. “We try to do things here in the building to help them feel like we’re family too. We have deployment groups and lunch bunches where they can talk with friends who have similar situations.”

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Ohio Department of Education officials said 34,000 Ohio children have a parent serving in the active military, reserves or national guard. Some of them will attend as many as nine different schools during their K-12 years.

Air Force Master Sgt. Thomas Yoder was at Beverly Gardens with his wife on Thursday. They have four children, including two in Mad River Schools, but they’ll be reassigned in three weeks to Hawaii.

“The biggest challenge is finding a school that will understand and work with the military,” Yoder said. “Knowing that we may have to move in the middle of a school year, for instance, or being able to accommodate a child that is going through stresses that are very unique to military children, such as deployments. … Those type of support systems being built into a school system help us out greatly.”

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Andrea Attaway Young is a school liaison officer with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, helping families make those transitions to find the right community and school, especially if a child has special needs.

”We don’t want to penalize these students who are transitioning in support of their parents, who are supporting our country,” she said.

Beavercreek City Schools officials said more than 10 percent of their students have a military parent on active duty, while nearly 40 percent have parents who work with the military in some capacity.

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The district provides support through two Military Family Life Counselors, who offer individual and family life counseling, special events, and group sessions on relevant topics.

“Our district is so proud that Trebein Elementary received this award,” Beavercreek Superintendent Paul Otten said. “It reinforces our district’s commitment to welcome and support our military families.”

DeMaria said it’s especially important for schools to work with families moving from other states, to understand how a student’s previous courses fit into Ohio’s standards and graduation requirements. He said Ohio officials work with other states under the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children, to make sure those issues aren’t a burden.

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Dozens of hands shot up Thursday when Mad River Superintendent Chad Wyen asked the Beverly Gardens students how many had a family member in the military. Wyen said 75 percent of the school’s students are “military-impacted.”

“Our relationship with Wright-Patt is very special … and we constantly celebrate our families here,” Wyen said, before turning to the students. “It’s your parents who protect our country, and that is so cool.”