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The halls of Mills Lawn elementary school stood empty at noon Monday, March 16, as the local school district enacted Gov. Mike DeWine’s order closing all kindergarten through 12th grade schools for at least three weeks. (Photo by Carol Simmons)

Yellow Springs Schools— No early end to academic year

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Yellow Springs Schools Superintendent Terri Holden announced Friday, April 24, that despite the district’s hopes to end the school year two weeks early, after students reach the minimum instructional hours required by the state, distance learning will continue through the district’s originally scheduled final day, May 29.

In a letter to families, Holden wrote that the Ohio Department of Education, or ODE, “has provided strongly worded guidance stating that all schools should remain in session virtually until the last scheduled school day.”

As reported in the News last week, Holden spoke to the Yellow Springs school board during an online special meeting Monday, April 20, about the benefits she saw in wrapping up the 2019–20 year two weeks early. Besides allowing teachers time to assess their efforts this year and begin planning for next, an early end to the year would give relief to families whose children have been working from home since all K–12 schools in the state closed March 17 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“I assumed that parents and families by mid-May might have reached capacity for remote learning,” Holden wrote in her letter.

School board members were supportive of the superintendent’s recommendations, but opted to survey teachers and parents before acting. The ODE’s reluctance to allow districts leeway to end early, however, nixed the local efforts.

Holden wrote that the district will continue with its current distance learning plan, but will begin winding down the year beginning May 18. The week of May 25 will feature final reflection sessions between teachers and students “so that they may be able to feel some sort of positive closure for this school year,” Holden wrote.

Plans for honoring graduating seniors, including a possible ceremony later in the summer, are being explored, Principal Jack Hatert told the school board Monday.

In other recent schools-related news—

While the statewide closure of schools and the district’s transition to distance learning has dominated school leaders’ work over the past two months, other noteworthy items have occurred as well.

Top-ranked high school in county

Yellow Springs High School placed well regionally on the U.S. News and World Report’s annual Best High Schools’ ranking for 2020, which was released late last week.

The local high school was No. 1 in Greene County, and in the Miami Valley, was ranked second only to Oakwood. YSHS was ranked 26th in the state, out of 822 schools, putting it among the top 3% of schools in Ohio.

Nationwide, the high school ranked No. 840 out of more than 24,000 schools, putting it among the top 4% of high schools in the U.S.

The annual rankings are based on such criteria as college readiness, math and reading proficiency, curriculum breadth and graduation rate.

Interim treasurer to become permanent

With little fanfare, except to commend Tammy Emrick’s work this year as interim treasurer, the school board, at its regularly scheduled meeting last month, approved a two-year contract for Emrick as the district’s full-time treasurer effective Aug. 1, 2020, through July 21, 2022.

Emrick, who lives in Miamisburg and has 30-some years experience serving as treasurer for several area school districts, became interim treasurer here at the end of the last school year, after the board voted not to renew the contract of former Treasurer Dawn Bennett, who had been with the district for nine years.

A certified public accountant and a licensed Ohio school district treasurer, Emrick is receiving $75 an hour on an as-needed basis as interim treasurer. Her salary as treasurer effective Aug. 1 will be $112,000 annually, according to her contract.

Facilities financing

At the school board’s regularly scheduled meeting in March, Superintendent Holden told the board that she and Interim Treasurer Emrick had met with a representative of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC, to discuss the district’s options regarding a new program in which the state would help pay for renovation as well as construction of public school buildings. In the past, the OFCC would only help reimburse the costs of new construction, and at an amount — 17% in Yellow Springs — determined by a district’s relative wealth.

While the local community had rejected new construction, and the OFCC’s model, Holden said the state agency’s new program — called the Extended Limited Partnership Program, or ELPP — not only would help pay for renovation, but also was currently listing Yellow Springs as eligible for a reimbursement rate of up to 27% of the total cost of its yet-to-be-decided plan.

In order to lock in that amount, Holden asked the board to adopt a resolution of intent to participate in the ELPP.

“It is likely that we are at or near our all-time best rate for reimbursement at 27%,” Holden told the board. “This will give us time to explore facility possibilities,” she added, explaining that once the resolution was passed, the OFCC would begin working to “provide several options to give us an estimate of costs for either renovation and/or new build.”

She also said that passing the resolution only obligated the district to follow the OFCC’s recommendations in order to receive the 27% reimbursement, and the district could still opt out if the community didn’t agree with the state’s options.

She also said that passing the resolution this spring was necessary for any possible facilities-related ballot issue in November 2021. Holden added that she does not foresee going to voters any earlier than fall ’21 concerning the district’s school buildings.

The board unanimously approved the ELPP resolution.

Virtual meetings

This month, the board began meeting online, in keeping with the state’s order restricting the size of public gatherings.

The virtual meetings are streamed live on the district’s YouTube channel, with each of the board members and administrators participating by video conference technology. Viewers are offered the opportunity to type comments with the “chat” feature during the public comment section of the agenda; the chat ability is turned off afterward for the rest of the meeting.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 14, at 7:30 p.m.


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