Yellow Springs picks online school, will help working families

Yellow Springs schools will be online for at least the first nine weeks of the 2020-21 school year.
Yellow Springs schools will be online for at least the first nine weeks of the 2020-21 school year.

Some families with work constraints will be able to have their children supervised

Yellow Springs is the second Dayton-area school district to announce that all students will do online learning for the first quarter this fall, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. But Yellow Springs will offer a caveat to help certain working parents.

While most families will do their online learning from home, the district will accept a limited number of students into a Safe Center for Online Learning program, “where students can complete their virtual education in a supervised environment.”

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Yellow Springs schools officials said they could accept a maximum of 150 students in that model in its school buildings, in groups of eight. District enrollment is around 700.

Those who qualify would be students whose parents are essential health-care workers, students whose parents cannot work from home (employer letter required), and students from single-parent households whose parent must work. District leaders said priority within those groups will be given to the youngest students.

“We are starting the year in a 100% virtual capacity because the health condition in Ohio and nationally rapidly deteriorated in July,” Superintendent Terri Holden said Monday. “Going virtual for the first quarter allows us to monitor changing health conditions and keep our students, families and staff safe. The SCOL option is a nod to the difficulty going 100% virtual might present to some of our families.”

Yellow Springs joins Trotwood-Madison in going to fully online school for the first quarter. A few other districts, including Centerville, Oakwood and Bellbrook, expect to start the year with students in school two days and learning from home the other three. More local districts are having students choose between a five-days-in-school model or a fully online model.

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In Yellow Springs, nearly all students, whether at home or in SCOL program, would take online classes run by Yellow Springs teachers, at least for the first quarter until the district can reassess.

But families who want to commit to doing the entire year online would be enrolled in a third-party online setup, with education from SchoolsPLP or Virtual Learning Academy.

Yellow Springs originally planned a full return to in-school classes, but adjusted as the outbreak worsened in the Dayton area. Holden hosted a virtual town hall meeting last week to get parent input on fall back-to-school procedures.

Yellow Springs’ teachers union had called for a 100% online start to the school year, citing safety concerns. A school district survey showed respondents preferred online school with Yellow Springs teachers by a 52-44 ratio over a partial in-school option.

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The schools will issue Chromebook computers to all students in Grades K-12, plus connectivity hotspots for families that need internet access. Near the first day of classes, the district will offer multiple technology training sessions for students and families.

District officials said students must attend online classes for six hours daily to meet Ohio Department of Education guidelines on minimum hours of instruction.

The district’s plan said that model will continue “until health conditions change sufficiently to support a safe in-person educational environment.”