FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: Last districts to start fix glitches, have successes in mix of classrooms

Mad River Middle School is back in session. A smaller class of seventh- and eighth-graders prepare for English language arts class on the first day, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Jim Noelker/Staff

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Mad River Middle School is back in session. A smaller class of seventh- and eighth-graders prepare for English language arts class on the first day, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Jim Noelker/Staff

More than a dozen local school districts started classes either online or in-person Tuesday — the last ones to take the plunge into this coronavirus-affected school year.

In Kettering, Dayton, Northridge and Jefferson Twp., most students began classes online, with Dayton’s launch occurring amid significant temporary staff layoffs.

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“As with any first day of school, no matter how much planning occurs, there are always glitches,” Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said Tuesday, mentioning technology issues in several classrooms.

Lolli said many DPS high school students did not show up for online classes Tuesday, so the district will be reaching out to contact them. Other families just picked up their “ready packs” containing Chromebook computers and wifi access hotspots Tuesday morning.

“On the bright side, most classrooms in the elementary buildings and middle schools ran smoothly with the majority of the students in attendance,” Lolli said, adding that she expected most problems to be resolved by the end of this week.

Kettering Assistant Superintendent Dan Von Handorf said families with child care or technology problems appreciated the learning pod system that allowed a small number of children to do their online work in the safety of the school buildings. He said there was a 30-minute network outage for those students, but the system otherwise worked very well.

Some special education students also were in school in-person but most Kettering kids were online. Von Handorf credited Kettering’s teachers for a strong first day.

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“They did just an amazing job with their transition to remote learning, showing how much they learned from spring to this fall,” he said.

Von Handorf said the next issues are ironing out some bugs in the busing process and preparing for Thursday, the first day when 150-200 career tech students will attend the high school in-person.

For several other districts, Tuesday marked the return to the classroom for those families that chose in-person school. Among those with students returning to school buildings Tuesday were Fairborn, Troy, Springboro, Miamisburg, Franklin, Carlisle, Waynesville, Piqua and Milton-Union. Those districts also offered an online option.

Springboro reminded families last weekend not to send children to school if they have a fever or other symptoms. Piqua asked families to post first-day of school pictures Tuesday and got dozens of responses. Troy announced two-hour early dismissal for Monday and Tuesday due to expected heat.

There was a lot of anxiety coming into the first in-person day, but Miamisburg Superintendent Laura Blessing said students adapted extremely well, even self-policing mask and distancing issues in some cases.

“The school staff were impressed with the amount of flexibility and understanding and patience that our families and students had for this first day, which was probably the most unique that we have experienced in quite awhile,” Blessing said.

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She said first-day hiccups did happen — some online families struggling with the log-in process, and a few kindergarten families coming Tuesday when their classes don’t start until Wednesday — but she said she still had her “first-day goosebumps” on what she called a “really successful day.”

Mad River and Valley View schools started in hybrid models Tuesday.

Mad River students who chose in-person school will be in class 2-3 days per week and working online other days. Kids with last names A-K started in-person Tuesday, and the L-Z students begin Wednesday.

Mad River spokeswoman Jenny Alexander said there were some standard issues with online students logging in and getting onto Zoom, but she said the first day generally went very well.

“The students did a wonderful job wearing their required face coverings — so well that some of our kindergarteners tried to drink out of their water bottle through their mask,” Mad River Superintendent Chad Wyen said.

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