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Yellow Springs schools— Plan addresses learning losses

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Concerned about the educational setbacks experienced by students during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ohio Department of Education has required all districts in the state to submit a document detailing how they plan to assess and then address potential learning losses or delays.

Yellow Springs Superintendent Terri Holden presented the district’s plan to the school board during the board’s most recent regular meeting Thursday, April 8. The meeting, in the Mills Lawn gym, was the second in-person gathering of board members after a full year of online Zoom video conferences, and the first that allowed public attendance since pandemic-related school closures began.

With the local public schools opening fully earlier that week for 100% in-person learning, the district is taking stock of where students are — not only academically, but also socially and emotionally.

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Labeled by the state as the district’s “Learning Recovery & Extended Learning Plan,” Yellow Springs’ six-page plan begins this spring, primarily with assessments, observations and referrals, and follows through the 2022–23 school year with a variety of tutoring, curricular, enrichment and personal supports.

This year’s summer program, from the first week in June through the first week in July, is one piece. Sessions will include K–12 reading tutoring, K–12 math tutoring and credit recovery for high school students. Funding will be provided through educational Title Acts and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which is part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the CARES Act. Holden said that if funding allows, the district will consider offering outdoor and arts educational programming as well.

But she added that the offerings may be limited by the number of teachers available.

“Teachers are tired,” she said, referring to the difficulty of the past year. “Students are tired. It may be too much right now.”

The social and emotional needs of students play an integral part in the Yellow Springs plan.

In particular, “We are also taking a hard look at our students who have been absent from virtual instruction this year,” the document states. “It is easy to identify students who have been physically absent, but we are also looking at the performance of those students who may have been ‘ghost present.’ These students will be targeted for intervention and support services. We are also designing more extensive supports for our students in identified groups,” such as special education and low socio-economic status.

Holden noted that Yellow Springs’ Extended Learning Plan is available to the public through a link on the district’s website, She also stressed that the plan is “a living document” that can be changed if needs and funding sources change.

In other recent school board business—

In-person return

Superintendent Terri Holden reported on the district’s full-time return to in-person instruction Monday, April 5, noting that the district had “more than enough” PPE, or personal protection equipment, and cleaning and sanitation supplies. Actions taken by the schools to maintain physical distance include markings on the floors of each building to show movement direction and appropriate spacing; the addition of plexi-glass dividers in many classrooms; revised lunch schedules to allow more distancing; and the addition of outdoor tents at both school campuses. She noted that younger students at Mills Lawn were eating their lunches on marked spots on the elementary school’s gym floor, where, in order to limit talking, they listened to music or watched videos projected on a screen on the gym’s stage.

Gifted education

Student Services Director Donna First gave an update during the April 8 meeting on the district’s plans for providing intervention services for gifted students, reminding the board members that they had been informed in September that gifted education would be a focus of student services this school year.

Ohio requires all school districts in the state to identify students who qualify for gifted services, but does not require that such services be provided. Yellow Springs in recent years had followed the state mandate to identify, but opted out of offering state-defined services until deciding this year to change course.

First reported that the local district currently has 106 students identified as gifted in one or more of the state’s designated categories: superior cognitive ability, specific academic ability, creative thinking ability and visual and performing arts ability.

She also explained that in order to meet the state’s definition of providing gifted education services, the district must satisfy a variety of criteria:

• Have properly credentialed gifted intervention specialists to work with students and/or consult with teachers serving students

• Require general education teachers to complete 15 hours of related professional development each year

• Initiate specific service delivery models, such as pull-outs, acceleration or grouping

• Develop a Written Education Plan for each identified student

First said that the district’s goal this year has been to lay the foundation for offering state-defined services, and toward that end she has been working with Kenny Moore, of the Greene County Educational Service Center, and third-grade teacher Megan Bennett, who both have gifted intervention licenses. In addition, the following teachers will have completed the 15 hours of required professional development by the end of the school year: Alicia Horvath, Brandan Lowry, Dee Ann Holly, Chelsee Earley, Jennifer Scavone and Mikasa Simms.

The district’s plan is to pilot gifted services in selected grades and classes next year and then expand the program in subsequent years. Specifically, first grade, third grade, eighth-grade algebra, high school math and high school science (chemistry/physics) will be next year’s focus, according to First.

First said that Bennett and Moore will support the planning and consultation needed to provide gifted services through the cluster-grouping and acceleration models. They may also be able to provide some limited “pull-out” (taking students out of the classroom) or “push-in” (providing services in the general classroom) programs, she added.

First also reported that Written Education Plans for each of the district’s identified students should be completed by the end of this school year.

Contracted services

The board approved a contract with the Greene County Educational Service Center, or GCESC, for the 2021–22 school year at an estimated amount of $250,000. Contracted services through the GCESC include mental health, special education and behavioral support. The board also approved a three-year contract with the Miami Valley Educational Computer Association, or MVECA, effective July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2024, for broadband services. The contract lists $6,375 as the annual fee plus a one-time charge of $36,740.25 for new installation and/or configuration, “if deemed necessary.”

Honors and gifts

The superintendent expressed gratitude  this month and last for recent gifts, including:

• A donation through the Yellow Springs Community Foundation (YSCF) to the Yellow Springs Athletic Fund (aka Yellow Springs Public Schools Pass-Through Fund) from Heather Lamont

• A donation to the Outdoor Track Project by the Class of 1995 in memory of John Gudgel’s daughter January Curry

• A grant of $300 from the YSCF, deposited into the Yellow Springs Public Schools Endowment Fund, in recognition of a 2021 Philanthropy Award for COVID-19 Non-Profit Pivot

• A donation of a GlitterBug Hand Hygiene Kit to Mills Lawn from Sarah Sinclair-Amend

Volunteer efforts by parent Eric Clark, who spent time beautifying the Mills Lawn grounds, specifically clearing it of dog waste

• Donations through the YSCF to the Yellow Springs Athletic Fund by Kirsten Friedman, Ted Morgan and Sunrise Cafe/Calypso Grill and Smokehouse

Personnel matters

In addition to approving the previously announced resignation of Mills Lawn Principal Michelle Person, effective June 30, the board also approved the retirement of fourth-grade teacher Victoria Hitchcock, effective June 1. They also approved family leave for third-grade teacher Chelsee Earley, with an anticipated start date of May 7.

Bike hike to honor cyclist

Mills Lawn Principal Michelle Person reported that the annual third-grade bike hike will take place this year on May 5 and has been renamed the Dan Carrigan Memorial Bike Hike, in honor of the Yellow Springs community member who died suddenly in January. Carrigan was an avid cyclist who Person said “was extremely involved” in the third-grade class trek each year.

Senior activities

McKinney Middle and Yellow Springs High School Principal Jack Hatert noted that the class of 2021 “is a quarter away from graduation.” Hatert said school leaders are planning a variety of events and activities “to ensure this year has its share of positive memories to overshadow the oddities brought about by the pandemic.”

In the works are plans for an outdoor prom at the Wirrig Pavillion on Saturday, May 15, and an outdoor graduation ceremony Thursday, May 27, featuring a community clap-out and senior car parade leading back to the school for a “socially distanced picnic-style” ceremony with live speakers, a big screen and family involvement.

Hatert also reported that as of the end of the third quarter, all seniors were on track to graduate.

Career Center senior recognition

Steve McQueen, the board’s representative on the Greene County Career Center Board reported in March that the center’s annual ceremony recognizing graduating seniors will be held in-person this year on May 25, beginning at 7 p.m., at Wright State University’s Ervin J. Nutter Center, if pandemic conditions don’t worsen.

Future board meetings

The board is planning to have a special meeting at a date to be determined later this month to hear the superintendent’s recommendation for a facilities master plan and related bond levy. The school board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be in-person on Thursday, May 13, in the Mills Lawn gym. The meetings will be livestreamed and recorded, and posted on the district’s YouTube channel. Members of the public may also attend board meetings in person but will be required to wear a face mask and maintain six feet in physical distance.

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