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From left, Jack Hutchings, Maddox Fry, Era Creepingbear and Alayna Hamilton were among the Mills Lawn students who took part in Hour of Code last week, an international movement designed to introduce children of all ages to computer science and coding. Megan Bennett’s third-grade class was already ahead of the curve, having completed a project-based learning, or PBL, project called “Coding Cadets” this fall. The third graders took their coding knowledge to their older and younger peers, coaching each Mills Lawn class in the basics of creating with code. (Photo by Audrey Hackett)

(Photo by Audrey Hackett)

Schools prepare to reopen Aug. 27

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The current message from Ohio’s governor is that schools will reopen in the fall, but local districts will have a great deal of control over how that happens and what the return looks like, Yellow Springs Schools Superintendent Terri Holden told the local school board last week.

“The governor is committed to everyone returning to school,” Holden said, summing up her impressions after a recent online meeting of about 17 school superintendents with Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria.

Reporting at the board’s most recent regular meeting on Thursday, June 11, held online and streamed on YouTube, Holden said the superintendents and state leaders looked at four areas of consideration in reopening: health and safety; educational quality; social-emotional well-being; and operations, including cleaning, supplies and staff training.

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The structures and implementations of the last three will have a lot of local control, Holden said, but the first, regarding state-mandated health and safety regulations and guidelines, “that’s the X-factor.”

What those regulations and guidelines end up being will affect all the other areas.

Distancing requirements of six feet between desks, for example, will take some creative problem solving.

“We have smaller class sizes than other districts, but we also have smaller classrooms,” Holden said. The rooms aren’t large enough to hold an entire class with desks spaced six feet apart, she said. Some classrooms, such as the kindergar ten rooms, use small group tables, rather than desks, so their arrangements will have to be rethought as well.

Holden said administrators are exploring a variety of possible solutions, including maintaining a distance-learning curriculum for high school students and moving some of the elementary grades to the high school building, to allow other elementary grades to spread out more in Mills Lawn. Staffing for such an arrangement would be a challenge, however.

And that’s just one suggestion, Holden said, noting other suggestions include staggered attendance, where a limited number of students are at the schools at one time, or the district might adopt a combination of in-school and online learning, where students come in on specified days.

However the school day will look, the start date will be pushed back a week, from Aug. 20 to Aug. 27. The board voted unanimously on a first reading of the calendar change, which will get a final vote at the July board meeting.

Holden said the change will give teachers a needed extra week to prepare their classrooms and finalize teaching plans. The original calendar allowed for three days of preparation.

The superintendent also plans to bring a recommendation for a change in school start time to the July meeting. She is proposing that the high/middle school day begin 15 to 30 minutes earlier. She said that the additional accumulative hours will give the district more flexibility in managing the 1,001 instructional hours required by the state.

A survey sent to middle and high school families asking about the proposed change in start time elicited 211 responses. Of those, 90 were in favor of a 15-minute change, 82 favored 30 minutes and 39 wanted no change.

Because of bus schedules, a change in the start time at the middle/high school would consequently mean a change in start time at Mill Lawn as well. A survey has been sent to Mills Lawn families, but results were not available before press time.

Next year’s reopening is being anticipated on another front as well as high school sports begins to phase in summer training and practices.

Training for fall sports began this week, with players coming to the high school on staggered schedules for individual skills work.

Athletic Director Jeff Eyrich has developed a three-phase plan for getting teams back on the courts and fields. The first phase is individual training, with 10 students allowed in the facilities at a time; the second involves team practices where 10 players can participate together indoors and up to 50 outdoors; and the third allows 50 inside and out. Each phase is anticipated to last two weeks and is based on CDC and Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) recommendations and procedures, according to Principal Jack Hatert.

Hater t added that no competitions, including the annual soccer tournament, will take place during this period. He also said that the school is working with the custodial staff to ensure thorough cleaning after each group cycles out. Additionally, students will be responsible for monitoring their temperature and health, and bringing their own personal water.

In other recent school board business:

Financial savings

In her monthly report to the board, district Treasurer Tammy Emrick said that the financial bottom line for this fiscal year, which ends June 1, will be better than anticipated.

While the budget had projected another year of deficit spending — where expenses outpace income — of more than $450,000, the district is coming in at about $450,000 under the amount anticipated for expenditures.

“We’re going to end the fiscal year close to where we started,” Emrick said.

She did not explain the sources of the savings, nor respond to requests from the News for more details.

Land auction

The board unanimously approved a resolution to sell at auction a parcel of land along the southern border of the middle/ high school campus for the purpose of developing the piece as part of a bike trail connecting East Enon Road and the Agraria Center for Regenerative Agriculture on Dayton-Yellow Springs Road.

District leaders said this week they would not know the size of the parcel until it has been surveyed. Board President Steve Conn said in an email Wednesday morning that the parcel will be “bike-path wide” and run the length of the south side of the school campus.

The resolution sets the auction for noon Aug. 20 at the board offices.

According to the treasurer this week, a minimum bid has not been set “at this time.”

Personnel changes

• The board’s June meeting was the last for outgoing Mills Lawn Principal Matt Housh, who has taken an administrative position with Huber Heights City Schools next year after a decade in Yellow Springs.

The board and superintendent thanked Housh for his service to Yellow Springs Schools and wished him well.

“Thank you for being such a great presence at Mill Lawn for these years,” Board President Steve Conn said.

Superintendent Holden echoed the sentiment.

“You’re going to be missed by myself, the staff and the children, Holden said.

For his part, Housh said that while he feels ready for a new professional challenge, he’ll miss Yellow Springs and Mills Lawn, which he said will always be “a touchstone” of his life.

• Relatedly, the Board approved eight additional work days for incoming Mills Lawn Principal Michelle Person in advance of the start of her contract Aug. 1.

• The board recently approved the hiring of Cameron Dickens as the new McKinney Middle School science teacher, filling the vacancy of Rebecca Eastman, who is moving out of town. The board also accepted resignations from seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher Courtney O’Connor, who is also relocating, and Mills Lawn project-based learning foundations teacher Joe Carr. The superintendent said Carr’s half-time position was being combined with another, and that he had been offered full-time employment, but declined.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 2.

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