National Trail board discussing issues surrounding 2020-21 school year

By Braden Moles -

NEW PARIS — The National Trail Board of Education discussed various topics of opening schools this fall during their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 23.

Superintendent Robert Fischer has been meeting with other county superintendents and health officials as part of the Preble County Return to School Coalition.

They recently reviewed documents from Warren County Fischer said they are trying to adopt for National Trail which cover multiple issues.

“One is what happens when we do have issues where sickness pops up. It could be a staff member or student and we have to close or we have to shut down parts of the building because of that,” Fischer said. “Talking a little bit about in regards to student health, how we’re going to handle those pieces, food service, what we’re going to do with that, classroom sizes, what we’re asking from our commissioner to help support us, transportation is a big piece of it. Visitors and recesses are some of the big areas that we’re looking at because those are going to be hot-button topics.”

Information will soon be sent out to families and community members addressing these issues and laying out tentative plans in regards to safety protocols.

“We’re going to send a survey out to all of our families. Just asking just one basic question is, based on the scenario that we have, if we don’t have a vaccine, what are your plans for your children? Are you going to send them? Are you concerned? Are there other things that you need to find out from us? Are you likely to send them? Are you somewhat likely? If these steps are in place, we’ll try to get a baseline as far as what we’re expecting from our community,” Fischer said. “Then from there, our principals will reach out and talk more specifically to anybody that puts the word, ‘No, we’re not going back and here’s why.’”

A survey will also be provided to the National Trail staff members so they may voice their concerns.

The board also discussed how transportation might work if restrictions are still in place for how many children are allowed on buses.

“One thing [Gov. Mike DeWine] said today that kind of concerned me is that transportation is a gigantic issue for us right now. We rely so heavily on the ‘Big and Yellow’ to go around and pick up our kids and we are limited to how many kids we can put on those buses,” Fischer said. “It’s going to be expensive. It’s going to be a gigantic cost for us and I don’t know how physically we can transport, if you go with the CDC guidelines are, which is one person to a seat, there is no physical way — we’d be running five or six bus routes.”

Fischer also touched on the issue of whether or not students and faculty will be required to wear facial coverings.

“The whole mask thing, which I know is a very controversial topic right now, our belief is, based off of our guidance today, it would be recommended, not required for our kids, but our staff members who are of higher concern, or just staff members period who are having that close contact with our kids, and maybe we will make it required for them,” Fischer said. “That’s something that right now is on the table.”

Overall, while Fischer said there are varying levels of worry from the community, their job is to make sure they create a safe environment for students when they can return to school.

“Those are kind of tentative steps as to what we’re looking at right now. Our plan is based off of what we talked to Dr. Jill Vossler, as well as [Preble County Public Health Commissioner] Eric [Balster], is that if the numbers stay where they are right now, we should be able to open up come Aug. 17.”

In other business:

  • The board approved a resolution regarding the implementation of eDays as a means of calamity make-up days.

This plan allows National Trail students to access and complete classroom lessons to fulfill up to a maximum number of hours that are equivalent to three school days in case of schools closing for any reason.

“Not later than Nov. 1 of the 2020-2021 school year, each classroom teacher shall develop a sufficient number of lessons for each course taught by that teacher with such lessons requiring, in the judgment of the teacher, an amount of time equal to or greater than the number of hours that are equivalent of three school days in such teacher’s class,” the plan reads.

Teachers can then determine the order in which lessons are uploaded online and can update or replace lessons based on the instructional progress of students.

Each student enrolled in a course where a lesson is posted will have to weeks to complete the lesson, and if they do not, they will receive an incomplete or failing grade unless a sufficient reason is provided for not completing the work.

Students without computer access will be permitted to complete posted lessons once school has reopened, and will be under the two-week time frame as well.

This plan must be filed to the Ohio Department of Education by Aug. 1.

  • The board approved a five-year contract for Superintendent Robert Fischer from Aug. 1, 2021, to July 31, 2026, effective at the conclusion of his current contract which ends July 31, 2021.
  • The next regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 14, at 6 p.m. in either the media center or cafeteria at the National Trail K-12 building.

By Braden Moles

Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles

Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles