Students at Beverly Gardens Elementary in Riverside unfurl a new banner recognizing them as a Purple Star military-friendly school, while state schools superintendent Paolo DeMaria (right) speaks to students on Nov. 2, 2017. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

14 local schools and districts were honored for something very important to the Dayton area

Fourteen local schools and school districts have been given “Purple Star” awards for their dedication to military families, giving the area more than 40 percent of the awards earned statewide.

Thirteen individual local schools and the Wayne Local School District in Waynesville received the designation from the Purple Star Advisory Board earlier this month. A total of 33 schools and districts across the state were given the honor.

More than 34,000 Ohio children have one or more parents serving in the military, according to the Ohio Department of Education. The Dayton area contains a large number of such families because of the prominence of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Districts in Fairborn and Huber Heights now have Purple Heart Awards for each of their buildings.

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“We’ve been a military school district for a long time,” Fairborn City Schools spokesperson Pamela Gayheart said. “Kids come in and they’re pretty easily accepted.”

Gayheart said it was important for Fairborn, which is located close to Wright-Patt, to be military friendly.

In order to receive the two-year designation, schools must provide a staff point of contact between military families and the school, provide resources for military families on its website and more optional activities, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Optional activities can include special recognition events, school board resolutions to publicize the district’s resources or providing additional professional development and staff resources.

This round of awards was Ohio’s third. The program began in 2017 as a joint effort by the Ohio departments of Education, Higher Education, Veterans Services and Adjutant General to acknowledge schools that go above and beyond to support military families.

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“A supportive school environment can have a significant impact on our military-connected students, and we’re happy to see such a great interest in this designation by Ohio’s schools,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria. “These Purple Star schools provide our children and families with the resources they need to be successful. We’re thankful for their service and honored to continue the important work of improving services for Ohio’s military families.”

The designation means schools do more than just say they welcome military families, said Jasmine Tolbert, whose husband is an Airman.

Tolbert’s five children, whose ages range from 6 to 16, attend Mad River School District. One of the district’s schools, Beverly Garden Elementary School, was among the first Purple Star schools in 2017.

“I feel like Mad River Schools has done the work, not just to say that they appreciate and welcome military families, but that they’ve gone out of their way to show it,” Tolbert said.

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Tolbert, who is originally from California, moved to Dayton when her husband, a tech sergeant and soon-to-be master sergeant, was assigned to Wright-Patterson. She said school support can help mitigate some of the challenges military families face.

“Deployment and any type of separation between a military member and their family is always looming,” Tolbert said.

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