Board discusses graduation seals program

TIPP CITY — A first quarter update and a local graduation seals program were discussed under the superintendent’s report at the Tipp City Board of Education meeting, held Monday evening.

One of the great successes for the first quarter was live, in-person instruction at Tipp City Schools. Currently, of the 2,464 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade, 2,195 students are observing in-person instruction, with 269 students opting for full-time, online instruction.

“A lot of compliments go out to a lot of people. When we started this school year, we didn’t know what we were going to be dealing with, or how often we were going to be dealing with some of the things that were presented to us. People have really stepped up across the board. Everybody’s jobs have changed, and they’ve stepped up to meet the challenge,” Tipp City Superintendent Mark Stefanik said. “A lot of people believed, at the beginning of the school year, that there was no way we were going to make it to the first marking period and still be live and in-person in schools.”

Part of the success of in-person classes continuing is due to safety protocols put in place in all buildings, ongoing communication with the local health department to promote safety in each building, as well as transparency regarding the risks that will be present with children and school district employees occupying school facilities.

“Based on what the health department said last week, a lot of their conversations when they get into contact tracing — it’s really about some of the activities that are going on outside of school, because there’s not as much social distancing or as much mask-wearing as there is in school,” Stefanik said. “(We) can’t guarantee that all of the transmission happens outside of school, but there’s a lot of evidence from the health department that there’s a lot of big group activities happening outside of school that contribute to the chances for transmission.”

Stefanik also brought up how Tipp City Schools doesn’t have the square footage to social distance 6 feet between students and staff in classrooms, and that the recommendation from the American Association of Pediatrics that was implemented in classrooms was 3 to 4 feet of distance between persons, with each person wearing two masks.

Additionally, a few things have been adjusted since in-person instruction resumed at Tipp City Schools. One of these adjustments has been pulling back on the level of cleaning and sanitizing between classes; Stefanik said that the concern was around how much disinfectant was being used in classrooms and how much instruction time was being taken away from students due to continuous disinfecting and sanitizing. The solution, with advisement from the health department, was focusing on hand sanitizing over disinfecting classrooms after each class period.

“We were able to minimize the amount of spray on the tables, but by maximizing the amount of hand sanitizer use, we were able to get to the same point,” Stefanik said.

Also discussed was a local graduation seals program. According to the state’s website, graduation seals help students demonstrate knowledge and skills for future success in their post-high school paths. Students can demonstrate readiness by earning two seals, one of which must be state-level. Stefanik recommended three local seals for Tipp City Schools covering fine arts, community service and student engagement.

“We don’t have to have three at the local level, but I think that if we can have as much variety and opportunity for our students, that gives them a chance to lock in what truly drives them, and what gets them out of bed in the morning,” Stefanik said.

Board member Anne Zakkour brought up recognizing students who work part-time jobs through the local graduation seals program.

“Job training at the secondary level, it’s amazing what they learn. It’s no longer the principal and the teacher telling them, it’s the employer telling them. It’s company policies, it’s working (to find) someone to fill your shift when you can’t be there. It’s on the job training that I feel is invaluable, and I don’t know why we’re not recognizing that for the students who do it so successfully,” Zakkour said.

Stefanik said that while the three categories are broad, the definitions of each seal will be brought before the board before being put forth. Assistant Superintendent Steve Verhoff added that the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness seal is a state-defined diploma seal that students working part-time jobs could qualify for.

“Something that we are working on is pre-apprenticeship programs at the high school. We’re trying to move forward in finding some business partners that would be willing to do that in the area of manufacturing, healthcare, we’re looking at electricians and also information technology,” Verhoff said. “That would fit right in like with that OhioMeansJobs-Readiness seal.”

The next Tipp City Board of Education meeting will be held Monday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m., with a work session beginning at 5 p.m.