Tipp City Board of Education goes over restart proposal, concerns

TIPP CITY — On Monday, Mark Stefanik, the incoming superintendent at Tipp City Schools, gave a presentation on the school restart proposal for the 2020-2021 school year for the Tipp City Board of Education, going over survey results from community members on what they are desiring, as well as the three options under the restart proposal.

“We rolled out the draft for the restart plan for Tipp City Schools,” Stefanik said.

The restart proposal’s three options include teaching models tied to the state county alert levels. The first option, called “All In,” would have a five-day school week for all students under county alert levels 1 and 2. Under this model, parents would assess students’ health before school, and face masks would be required for grades fourth through 12th. The lunchroom space would be expanded to other areas, and two students would be permitted per seat on the school buses.

Under county alert level 3, the proposed hybrid model would blend in-person learning and remote learning. Students would be split into two student groups, with group A attending in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays. Group B would attend in-person classes on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays would be an at-home learning situation for all students. Face masks would also be required for grades fourth through 12th.

Board members raised concerns about the added strain on staff of teaching students in-person but also servicing students learning remotely. Stefanik said this hybrid option would offer students the opportunity to engage with their teachers in-person while also learning remotely.

“They get to maintain live interactions with their teachers for part of the week,” Stefanik said.

If the county were to move to an alert level 4, all students would go to remote learning and receive instruction at home. Grab and go lunches would be available at select buildings. There would be no large group students events and no extracurricular band or choir. Staff would work from schools sites if permitted, and special education services may be adjusted.

Stefanik also noted that even if the county were moved up to different alert levels, the district would be able to work with Miami County Public Health (MCPH) to determine whether or not it was necessary for the district to adjust their learning model. He used the example of if there was an outbreak of COVID-19 at a congregate facility like a nursing home outside of Tipp City, MCPH would be able to tell the district whether or not in-person learning in Tipp City could still be appropriate even if the county alert level was moved up again.

Stefanik noted some confusion community members had about the remote learning option and an additional option offered to students from the Miami County Educational Service Center (ESC). Miami County ESC is offering students in Miami County the option to enroll in online learning with Miami County ESC regardless of what county alert level the county is at, but that is not the same as the Tipp City school district’s hybrid and remote learning models. Tipp City’s hybrid and remote learning models will still utilize instruction and lessons from Tipp City teachers, not from any outside organizations.

Under the Miami County ESC option, the online format would mirror Tipp City Schools course offerings and students would remain enrolled as a Tipp City student. Teacher feedback and support would be available within the K-12 platform.

Board members Joellen Heatherly, Anne Zakkour, Corinne Doll, and Theresa Dunaway appeared in favor of moving forward without the hybrid option. Board member Simon Patry appeared supportive of the hybrid option, but he did not speak against getting rid of that option.

Stefanik said staff will give presentations to the board during the board’s next work session on Monday, Aug. 10, at 6 p.m. on 12 areas of how learning will be impacted by these options. Questions from the community can be submitted to info@tippcity.k12.oh.us.

The school district received approximately 1,263 responses from parents in a survey asking parents what they would like to see for the upcoming school year. Of those who responded to the survey, the following results showed:

• 74.4 percent of parents are in favor of making it safe for students and staff to return to the school buildings

• 16.1 percent of parents are in favor of making remote learning the best it can be

• 9.5 percent of parents do not have a preference

In the staff survey, approximately 44.8 percent of 212 responses were in favor of making it safe for students and staff to return to the school buildings and approximately 43.4 percent were in favor of both making in-person classes safe and also making remote learning the best it can be. The remaining responses were split between just making remote learning the best it can be or did not have a preference.

“The staff raised some concerns about how safe it was to come back,” Stefanik said. “We’ve got some anxious staff members.”

In the student survey of the 365 students who responded to the question if they are comfortable returning to in-person classes, approximately 61.1 percent said they were “very comfortable,” 27.7 percent were “a little comfortable,” and 11.2 percent were “not at all comfortable.“ Approximately 41.6 percent said their would be “somewhat compliant” about wearing a mask in school, 30.1 percent would be “very compliant,” and 28.2 percent would be “not compliant at all.”

A number of community members submitted written comments on the restart proposals prior to the board meeting, with some parents against the face mask requirements and others against linking the restart plan to the state’s alert system.

Heather McCormick of Tipp City said the coronavirus has been in the area since January, stating students and staff were in school and “living with the virus for 10 weeks” before the first lockdown measures were taken.

“We’ve done this before without the knowledge we have now,” McCormick said. “Please reconsider using the state’s alert system … Keep all school decisions local.”

“Our family wants to return to a five-day schedule,” Dana Martin of Tipp City said. Martin said their family was against masks but would be willing to utilize them if it meant returning to school.

Kelby Rossetter of Tipp City asked if there was a plan for families where both parents work full-time.

“I do not agree with masking of kids of any age,” Christy Carlson of Tipp City said, adding they had concerns linking the restart plan with the state’s alert plan.

In other news:

The board accepted a settlement agreement with CS1031 Midwest Industrial DST in regard to property taxes owed to the district. CS1031 Midwest Industrial DST agreed to pay the district approximately $23,436 for this year, and Treasurer David Stevens said there will be additional funds coming for the next two years as part of the settlement. In total, Stevens said approximately $70,000 taxes will be paid to the district over the next three years, which includes the amount of $23,436 for this year.

The board also tabled legislation to continue the partnership with New Creations Counseling Center, Tipp City, as the district’s preferred mental health agency, for the 2020-2021 school year at a cost of $53,500, payable in three installments. Doll, Dunaway, and Zakkour voted in favor of tabling the item. Heatherly and Patry voted against tabling the item.

Zakkour spoke about concerns in the agreement in regard to the provision that states, “the Nexus Program may provide mental health services to a minor student fourteen (14) years of age or older, upon request, without the consent or knowledge of the minor’s parent or guardian, however, such mental health services shall be limited to no more than six (6) sessions or thirty (30) days of services, whichever occurs sooner.” The board is expected to discuss this item at its next work session on Aug. 10.