TCN superintendent updates board on COVID-19, graduation

By Kelsey Kimbler -

LEWISBURG — Tri-County North Board of Education streamed its recent meeting live from the lecture room. During the meeting, held on Monday, April 20, Superintendent Bill Derringer updated the board on all things COVID-19. This included updates on learning, food, homework packets, and the recently extended school closure announcement from Governor Mike DeWine.

Derringer also updated the board on prom and graduation, stating, they want to make senior year as special as possible for those students and are working on planning different celebrations.

Digital learning

The three building principals were not present during the board meeting, but Derringer took the opportunity to thank them for their efforts amid the crisis.

“All three of them have done a nice job of communicating with their teachers, they’ve also done a good job communicating with the students that needed it,” he said.

He added, the principals emailed their teachers for feedback on the digital learning aspect. Derringer did not read those letters, but he did provide them for the board.

“There are a lot of positive comments in there about the things our teachers are doing with our students,” he said. Derringer shared some of those things teachers are doing to connect with their students, including posting videos online, video chats — Google Meet and Zoom, and answering emails quickly and efficiently for any questions.

He recognized teachers for being available for their students throughout the day, not just when it is stipulated they be present to respond to emails.

“I want to thank them for the work they’re doing and this hasn’t been easy on anyone. Also, want to thank – we’ve got a lot of parents comment on our Facebook and I’ve received a lot of positive comments thanking our teachers for the work that they’re doing in these troubled times.”

The district held its first packet pickup and drop-off two weeks ago, which Derringer reported went “better than expected.” He added, Principal Joe Finkbine indicated grades K-2 as being primarily packet-based. They received numerous positive comments on how smoothly the first packet pickup went. The second packet pickup and drop-off was held on Tuesday, April 21.

Food distribution

Tri-County North is working with Community of Faith to provide bags of seven breakfast and seven lunch meals for students with need in the district. In addition to donation, these food items are also ordered through the school district. According to Derringer, donations have been great with community support “pouring in.”

He added, the food distribution has worked better every week. The first week they went through the Preble County Success Liaison Program and area food banks, but the demand was higher than the supply. They distributed 60 bags in 20 minutes and were out of food. After that, the school district started working with Community of Faith. They distributed 80 bags the first week, which Derringer was disappointed in. In the weeks following, their top number was 198, with the district passing out 180 bags the week before.

“It has gotten bigger and bigger every week. My expectation was, I thought we would have around 200 consistently. I think that is probably where we’re going to be from now until the end of school. Again, keep in mind that we are around 840-850 students total and we’re providing meals for 200 of them,” he said.

2020 stadium lights

On Friday, April 17 and Monday, April 20, Tri-County North turned its stadium lights on at 8:20 p.m., which is 20:20 in military time. They left the lights on for 20 minutes to show support for everyone who has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis, especially the class of 2020.

This was part of a state wide movement called “Light Up Ohio.”

“We’re just trying to do something to let them know they’re not forgotten. It is just a horrible situation, I feel for everyone who wasn’t able to participate in softball, or baseball, or run track this spring. Even the winter sports that were in the middle of tournaments and things and they lost those or didn’t even get to participate in tournaments. Not only the athletes, but it has effected the entire senior year for our students,” he said.

Governor’s announcement, senior celebrations

Ohio’s K-12 schools will continue remote learning for the rest of the current academic year, per an announcement Governor DeWine made on Monday, April 20.

“Basically, for us, I think that means we continue to do what we have been doing between now and the end of the school year. We’re still looking for additional guidance on what exactly that looks like when the year is going to end. We’re trying to communicate that out. I think right now the Governor is pretty much expecting us to go according to our normal calendar, on those dates. If that changes, I’m definitely going to put that out to our teachers and our community,” he said.

“That is where we’re at right now. We do want to do some things to make the seniors, their senior year as special as we possibly can. I’ve had a lot of questions about prom and about graduation, we’re working on thoughts on that. We’re working on things we can do in the community. Nothing that I want to release to the public right now, because I don’t know what we can or what we can’t do. I just want the community to know we are planing some different things.”

He added, the school plans on having a graduation, even if they have to postpone the event to later in the summer or change the venue.

“We’re not going to just scrap graduation, that is not in the future for us. I think we need to do something — what that looks like I think depends on what we’re allowed to do. Whether we can get people back together, if we have to push that back, maybe into June, we have to do that. I don’t necessarily think we have to do something at the church, where we always do, I know that’s been the tradition for us for a lot of years. There are other options,” he said.

He added, it all depends on how close people are allowed to be and how many people are allowed at a single event.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-68-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-68-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH