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On Monday, March 23, the Mills Lawn playgrounds were quarantined off, as the equipment surfaces could spread the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. The action followed the governor’s stay-at-home order this week that while allowing some outdoor activity, prohibits use of public access playgrounds.
(Photo by Reilly Dixon)

YS Schools— Learning continues despite closure

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The Mills Lawn playgrounds were roped off this week with caution tape, a stark visual metaphor as local educators and students learn how to continue schooling when classes are canceled.

This week would have been spring break for Yellow Springs schools, if they — and all other kindergarten through 12th grade institutions in the state — had not closed a week earlier, as ordered by Gov. Mike DeWine in response to the worldwide novel coronavirus outbreak.

While local students were still given a temporary reprieve from their studies in recognition of spring break, after the introduction of home instruction the week before, administrators and staff stayed busy. The janitorial crew worked on deep cleaning and sanitizing the buildings, teachers designed lesson plans for their housebound classes, and administrators considered how to complete the academic year if schools remained closed beyond the initial three-week shutdown, as the governor has said is possible.

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Regardless of whether schools reopen, state-mandated testing is expected to be waived for the 2019–20 school year. DeWine announced during his daily press conference Sunday, March 22, that he would be asking Ohio’s General Assembly to pass a measure forgoing state testing. He had said earlier this month that “the world would not end” if testing, which was scheduled to begin after spring break, did not take place this year.

Also at the March 22 press conference, DeWine announced a stay-at-home order for most Ohioans, which went into effect Tuesday, March 24. The order led the public schools to further limit the number of on-site staff whom, according to district Superintendent Terri Holden, are following the Ohio Department of Health’s physical distancing guidelines. Most administrators, including Holden, are now working from home as much as they can, although she and the building principals had continued coming in regularly before the governor’s new order.

In a letter to district families dated Monday, March 23, Holden wrote that district staff will continue to answer phone calls and emails during the indefinite stay-at-home period, but there might be “a slight delay in response time.”

In the likely event that schools will not reopen this academic year, Holden said the state will need to address timelines for delivering curriculum and meeting annual educational requirements as well as determining graduation eligibility for this year’s seniors.

“As I plan for the future and anticipate non-traditional instruction/distance learning for the remainder of the year, our instructional approach must change,” Holden wrote. For the initial closure, which called for students returning to class Monday, April 6, teachers attempted to assign work that supported classroom lessons that had already occurred, without necessitating new content instruction by parents or guardians. A sustained shutdown will require new formats for providing curriculum.

“I will be spending the remainder of this week working on that plan in collaboration with teachers and administrators,” she wrote. “As soon as this is ready, and as soon as we have more clarity from the governor and ODE [Ohio Department of Education], I will share it with all of you.”

Holden also noted that the current stay-at-home order allows for certain outdoor activities, as long as physical distancing requirements are followed. Walking, hiking and biking, are all permitted, as are visits to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas. Public access playgrounds, however, like those at Mills Lawn, are off limits, as the equipment surfaces may spread the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. As such, the school has cordoned off the play equipment areas with yellow caution tape, closing the playground until further notice.

Food delivery

Amid the more restrictive stay-at-home orders, the district is continuing to provide food for students who are on free or reduced meal plans, as well as other students who have indicated a need. Implemented the first week of the school shutdown as a pickup service at the middle/high school, the program has been modified to take the meals directly to students’ homes.

The change in delivery method was initially made at the end of last week out of concern that not everyone who qualified for the meals could come to the school for pickup, “and we were missing too many children,” according to volunteer organizer Donna Haller, who is an intervention specialist at the high school. Now, the change also better meets the new stay-at-home mandate.

According to Steffanie Stratton, of the district office, deliveries were scheduled Tuesday and Friday this week and next, from 9 to 11 a.m. Each delivery will have breakfasts and lunches for two to three days for each student. Anyone not on the free or reduced service list who is in need of food assistance is invited to call Stratton at 937-767-7381 to receive delivery.

Haller said Monday evening that 20 teachers and administrators were prepared to make deliveries the following morning to about 200 children in Yellow Springs, Clifton, Cedarville, Xenia, Dayton, Fairborn, Enon, Donnelsville and Springfield.

In addition to the breakfast and lunch bags assembled by two staff members from The Nutrition Group, the district’s meal service provider, Haller said that the deliveries also included 60 bags of dinners, with five dinners in each bag, put together by five community volunteers on Sunday evening; and 60 period packs for girls, assembled by the school nurse.

Staying connected

The district’s website — — continues to be updated with informational and educational resources for students and families. In addition, most every teacher has uploaded materials for their students on the website’s non-traditional instruction page; and anyone who wants some insight into what students’ learning expectations look like can see for themselves on the public site.

Mills Lawn Principal Matt Housh and counselor John Gudgel have also posted supportive short videos. Housh even composed an original song, “Bulldog Brave,” referring to the Yellow Springs schools’ mascot and encouraging students to be “bulldog brave.” In addition, McKinney Middle School language arts teacher Jaime Adoff posted an inspirational rap on social media that has been shared widely, and instrumental music teacher Brian Mayer has made a short video as well.

As students prepare to resume their school work on Monday, Housh this week offered several suggestions:

• Stay positive.

• Have a set routine that includes academic work, exercise, family time, “chillax time” (chill and relax) and social interaction by email or Google chats.

• Help your family with chores, such as meal prep, cleaning the house, taking care of pets and other helpful acts.

Be creative — take time to make art, play music, sing, act, dress up, play a character.

• Don’t worry, be happy.

• Ask your teachers and parents questions if you need any support.

• Keep your brain and body busy!

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