Tipp City Board of Education discusses restart plans

TIPP CITY — The Tipp City Board of Education continued discussions on its reopening plans during its meeting on Monday as Superintendent Mark Stefanik provided further guidance from the district’s Responsible Restart Task Force.

Families have until Aug. 16 to decide if they want to enroll their students in the full-time online program, which will be taught by an outside vendor, SchoolsPLP.

“They have a standards-based program that is already sequenced in a lesson format,” Stefanik said. SchoolsPLP will provide students with mentors to help them, but the instruction will not be happening live.

The district will also have point of contact persons within the district for those students receiving online instruction to get additional help as needed, and those point of contact persons will also monitor online students’ progress. Stefanik said the district is expecting to have five or six point of contact persons within the district. He said he envisioned the point of contact persons to act as a mixture of guidance counselor and support staff person.

Stefanik said this online-only option is different from the district’s remote learning option. While the district will be returning in the fall with in-person classes, should students need to return to remote learning later on, then that instruction would be conducted by Tipp City school teachers.

“When we go to remote learning, you will see Mrs. Johnson in your online classes at home,” Stefanik said.

Stefanik provided the board with a schedule of when teachers would provide live instruction over Zoom four days a week during remote learning, with Wednesdays acting as a day for small group instruction and teacher office hours.

“Each level will have an expectation for seeing their teachers live,” Stefanik said. For students, there will also be attendance expectations and work completion expectations.

“If things settle a bit, we might be able to stay with the face-to-face option for a high percentage of the year,” Stefanik said. “And that would be great as long as everyone can stay healthy.”

If the district would move to remote learning, it is unclear how many SchoolsPLP students, if any, could switch over to the remote learning.

The district also received approximately $145,000 from the federal CARES Act, and the district is expecting to receive approximately $120,000 from a second federal grant, according to Treasurer David Stevens. Those funds can be used for computers and devices to send home with students for either remote learning or the SchoolsPLP program, as well as for face masks and other expenses incurred from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board also held a discussion about sending students home who are presenting COVID-19 symptoms. Students are also recommended to stay home for 10 days if they’re presenting any symptoms possibly related to COVID-19 and 14 days if they are diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the district policies.

Board member Corine Doll said sending kids home with symptoms and keeping them home for 10 days could be a hardship for working families.

Board member Simon Patry noted that if there was an outbreak of the virus at the district, it would cause more hardship.

“The burden gets spread upon more families,” Patry said.

Later on, the board held the first reading of a new policy requiring the use of protective facial coverings during pandemic/epidemic events. This policy would be implemented by the superintendent in alignment with guidance from public health officials and/or in accordance with government edicts.

Earlier in the meeting, school staff estimated the district has approximately 7,000 face masks on hand.

Stefanik said that anybody who has a medical reason that qualifies them from being exempt from wearing a mask has to present that medical documentation to the district.

“We have to report to the health department any staff member or student who is not wearing a mask and is wearing something different,” Stefanik said. Stefanik noted this was due to if a case pops up, the health department has to know who has a face mask on and who does not for the contact tracing process.

Students will also be given breaks from wearing a face mask throughout the school day.

In other news:

Also on Monday, the board discussed the district’s partnership with New Creations for mental health services for students.

At the board’s last meeting in July, the board 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. Board members Doll, Theresa Dunaway, and Anne Zakkour voted in favor of tabling the item. Board members Joellen 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.

On Monday, a representative from New Creations said that provision comes from the Ohio Revised Code. Tippecanoe High School School Counselor Christine Schmidt assured the board that parents are involved throughout the process of providing mental health services to students, including from the very beginning.

“I can tell you the six counselors that work for Tipp City don’t have secrets from parents. They are informed,” Schmidt said.

Later during the meeting, the board also discussed a request from a student to attend the district as a tuition student, who sent the board a letter that was read during the board’s previous meeting stating she had attended Tipp City schools for several years and this was supposed to be her senior year.

Dunaway said this was added to the board’s agenda due to the student communicating with the board through an attorney. The board later tabled this discussion by a majority vote with Doll, Dunaway, and Zakkour voting to table it and Heatherly and Patry voted against tabling the item. Doll, Dunaway, and Zakkour then voted to adopt a new policy that would allow the superintendent to inform families of the district’s policy regarding tuition students. Heatherly and Patry voted against it.

The board’s next meeting will be on Aug. 24 at 6 p.m.