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Yellow Springs School District explores early end to school year

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Along with the rest of Ohio’s K-12 schools, Yellow Springs Schools will remain closed through the end of the academic year, and instruction will continue remotely for the duration. But when that final date should occur is being questioned in Yellow Springs and other area districts, whose superintendents would like to wrap up the year earlier than originally scheduled.

As the News reported earlier, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the extended shutdown Monday, April 20, as part of the state’s continuing response to the COVID-19 crisis. Initially shuttering schools for three weeks in mid-March, the governor later pushed the restart date from April 6 to May 1, saying all along that the closure likely would continue through the 2019-20 school year.

Yellow Springs’ final day is currently set as May 29, with teachers’ last day scheduled June 1. But Superintendent Terri Holden on Monday recommended that the school board truncate the school year by two weeks and conclude the instructional year May 15. Teachers would continue working through the June 1 contract date, she said, but their time would be spent in evaluating the district’s distance learning experience and planning for the start of the next school year.

At a special meeting of the Yellow Springs school board, which was live streamed online Monday evening, Superintendent Holden told board members that she felt the governor is giving districts “great flexibility” to determine the educational models that work best for them, and she felt that includes when to end the instructional year — as long as the district meets the minimum number of instructional hours mandated by the state.

Ohio currently requires 910 hours for elementary grades and 1,001 for secondary grades, Holden told the board.

“When you meet those hours, you can call it a year,” she said. “We meet our minimum hours May 14.”

Since the next day, May 15, is a Friday, that seems the logical day to conclude, she said.

While school board members were receptive to Holden’s recommendations, the superintendent said Wednesday that the Ohio Department of Education, or ODE, is balking at the idea, and insisting that districts continue instruction through their entire scheduled academic year.

Holden said she’s contacted the district’s legal counsel about the matter, but unless the ODE reverses its instructions, or the governor makes an executive allowance, Yellow Springs likely will have to continue through May 29.

Ending the year early, however, would serve several useful purposes, Holden believes. Besides providing time for assessment and planning, it also would relieve students and families from the demands of continuing to conduct school at home after the instructional hour requirement has been met.

“It’s been my sense that parents have been very supportive [of the distance learning plan], but at the same time, people are reaching capacity,” Holden told the school board Monday.

She also said that if the year were to end early, the food program, which is currently delivering meals to about 190 students, would continue, as would some services to students with disabilities and other needs.

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