NEW PARIS — National Trail School District Board of Education members discussed plans for the upcoming 2020-21 school year during their regular monthly meeting Monday, Aug. 10.
The district’s back to school plan was unveiled July 29, and is available on the National Trail website. The plan involves both in-person and remote options. According to Superintendent Bob Fischer, approximately 33 elementary, 39 middle school and 20 high school students have shown interest in the online option, called The Blazer Academy, so far, figures which represent about eight percent of the overall student body.
“Students who opt for the Blazer Academy will be utilizing a program called Edmentum,” Fischer said. “This program was vetted by our district administration, by the Preble County Educational Service Center and by another ESC program that we have a partnership with in the area. It is our belief that this program will be a wonderful opportunity for the students who choose the online curriculum for the 2020-21 school year.”
The experience will be different from what students took part in following the state-mandated closure of all public schools in Ohio in March, according to Bishop, primarily due to the teaching being done by an online program rather than National Trail faculty.
“Ultimately the decision boiled down to having the needed staff to cover our physical/in-person classes, as well as the mental and physical well-being of that staff,” Fischer said. “There is no doubt in my mind that the ideal situation would be to have our staff teach all of our students, regardless of which option families chose. But the practicality of doing both is not possible for our teachers.”
The amount of planning, coordination and time that would go into dividing teachers’ focus between in-person and online students would be monumental, according to Fischer.
“Our staff gives a great deal to their students and classes, and I want to be fair to the families and students who choose to return in a physical setting,” Fischer said. “Without a doubt, our staff could create a model that would outshine any online program. But it would take a great amount of training to truly offer a successful blended-learning model.”
Fischer guessed that about 200 students will ultimately end up opting for either Blazer Academy or home school options. Though the online option will cost approximately $200,000 to implement, according to Fischer, the loss to the district if all of those students chose to withdraw and pursue home-schooling would be much greater.
“I’ve always stated that If we do something at National Trail, we are going to be the best at it, and we don’t want to just throw something together and not be able to provide the one-to-one attention, the needed training, and the time it takes to commit to this type of program for our students and staff,” Fischer said.
Students will have until Labor Day, Sept. 7, to make a final choice between the online or at-home options, Fischer said. After that they are committed, at least for the remainder of that semester.
High school principal Mike Eyler also addressed back to school-related concerns. Extending time between classes to allow staff the opportunity to clean and disinfect classroom facilities was considered, according to Eyler, but ultimately rejected due to fear that students “will use that extra time to linger in the halls and congregate,” which would be in opposition to the state’s social distancing guidelines.
Middle school students will carry backpacks throughout the day, according to principal Jen Couch, in order to limit the amount of time spent in hallways and retrieving items from their lockers. They will also coordinate with the elementary school, Couch said, to “limit the number of kids present in the hallways at a given time.”
Students will also forego the use of playground equipment, according to Couch, to avoid contact with surfaces shared by elementary schoolers.
Elementary students will be escorted to and from vehicles rather than allowing parents to enter the building, according to principal Ed Eels, as well as having their temperature checked when dropped off.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook or Instagram @mproperenglish