Class resumes amid COVID-19 restrictions

MIAMI COUNTY — Miami County School doors are slowly reopening — after being shuttered since last March — and classrooms and hallways will be much different than in years past.

Miami County school districts have had five months to prep for the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic mandates and safety measures. Each district also has spent thousands of dollars in preparation for the 2020-2021 school year.

Miami East Local Schools kicked off the school year with a “staggered” start with half of the 1,351 students attending Wednesday and Friday and the other half on Thursday and next Monday. The full student body will attend altogether starting Sept. 1.

According to Superintendent Dr. Todd Rappold, the district has spent nearly $200,000 on COVID-19 related expenses, with Plexiglas barriers being the majority of the cost.

Troy City Schools’ delayed its start of the school year until Sept. 8.

The district has spent approximately $575,000 to date both in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in preparing for the upcoming school year. The majority of the expense was purchasing Chromebooks and software in preparation of one-to-one learning, which was approximately $300,000. Additional food service costs of $70,000 and personal protective equipment (PPE) was approximately $70,000.

Superintendent Chris Piper said the district anticipating to spend more, but is unsure of the costs yet to come such as if buildings are shuttered for a period of time due and remote learning is implemented. The district has had eight teachers resign, two of which were known to be COVID-19 related. One teacher in the district took an unpaid leave of absence for ill health for a year due to COVID-19 concerns. The district is fully staffed, according to Piper.

Covington Exempted Village Schools started school on Tuesday. According to Superintendent Gene Gooding, the district has spent $27,945 so far with another $16,051.47 pending in COVID-19 related expenditures. Gooding said the majority of those funds were spent on disinfectant to clean the building, hand sanitizer and PPE, such as gloves and masks.

“Our staff members have done an excellent job of preparing for the upcoming school year,” Gooding said. “Our goal, all summer, has been to bring our students safely back to our buildings for in-person instruction. We have worked closely with the Miami County Health Department, and I believe that we have a strong reopening plan that will keep our students safe, and allow them to have an outstanding educational experience. Our students, parents, and community members have been very patient and very supportive. Our staff members are extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with our great students again.”

Gooding said the district’s teaching staff is full with no retirements or leaves of absence due to the pandemic.

Newton Local Schools opened its doors on Tuesday. According to Superintendent Pat McBride, the district has spent approximately $10,000 so far on cleaning and disinfecting products, hand sanitizer, shields and masks. The district also plans to hire a part-time custodian to do only sanitation duties on a daily basis for another $10,000 for the 2020-2021 school year.

McBride said he appreciates the attitude of the Newton community as schools reopen and said the district will be “applying some common sense” while complying with state mandates.

“We know things are different and a little strange but we will focus on the things we have always focused on,” McBride said. “We will respect one another and make learning in a safe environment our focus. Students and staff will make memories of school events and things that they do in the classroom and extracurricular activities as they always have. Wearing a mask while at school won’t change that. We are all looking forward to the day when we get back to normal and not the “new normal.’”

Newton Local Schools are fully staffed and no staff members have resigned or taken leaves of absence due to the pandemic.

Piqua City Schools Superintendent Dwayne Thompson said their district has spent $30,398 on COVID-19 related expenses with nearly $100,000 in purchase orders pending. Thompson said the majority of the funds are being spent on cleaning and sanitation resources for the facilities along with the PPE expenses and resources for the district’s nurses. The first day for students will be Sept. 8.

Piqua City Schools are fully staffed with no leaves of absences or retirements related to the pandemic.

Milton-Union Local Schools has spent $14,700 with an additional $79,500 in pending purchases including PPE, hand sanitizer, signage and cleaning supplies. Dr. Brad Ritchey also said the district will likely spend around $50,000 for the district’s remote learning option for an approximate total of $144,200 in COVID-19 related expenses. Also included in the district’s expenses, internet access for students who don’t have internet available at their homes.

“Because we were already a one-to-one district when COVID-19 hit, technologically, our staff and students had the ability to work at home immediately when we were ordered to quarantine in March,” Ritchey said.

The first day for Milton-Union will be Sept. 8.

Miami Valley Today will be expanding on this issue to see how many students chose online learning for the 2020-2021 school year in an upcoming article.