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Teachers prepared for distance learning

DALTON  Even before Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week that school buildings would remain closed, Dalton Local Schools educators were prepared to finish the school year teaching remotely.

Superintendent Jim Saxer said the district had plans in place in case distance learning was extended.

“Today’s announcement by the governor was not really anything that threw our team off,” Saxer said during the April 20 regular school board meeting, which was conducted for the second time via Google Meet because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “We were prepared for having online instruction for the rest of the year.”

Saxer said all students and families are impacted and he noted the most hard-hit group is the senior class. He said districts across the state that evening were planning to turn on their stadium lights at 8:20 (20:20 military time) for 20 minutes and 20 seconds and Dalton would be joining to honor seniors.

Saxer, who has a senior student himself, said the district also has done other things to recognize seniors including a Senior Spotlight each day online.

Since classes resumed on April 13 after the weeklong Spring Break, almost all teachers have been instructing through Google Classroom, Saxer said during an update he provided about distance learning. Some families still prefer paper packets and they’re being provided and delivered if need be. Saxer said he has heard positive feedback about the work staff is doing.

He listed ways that staff members, including teachers and counselors, have been resourceful in continuing to provide instruction and meeting a variety of needs of children and families to fulfill requirements of the school year. Saxer said the district is doing what it can to support families and reach out to them. He said some churches contacted them to let families know they provide food banks. The previous week, the district provided 1,565 breakfasts and lunches to students.

Saxer said a graduation ceremony is being held off while the state has said it’s unsafe for large groups to gather, but seniors can still use the graduation date at the end of May for applications or forms so that they can move forward with their future plans.

Board President Phil Schlabach commended the staff members for their work and administrators for their leadership and asked that his appreciation be extended. He also asked Saxer if there has been discussion surrounding athletics. Saxer said the Ohio High School Athletic Association has officially canceled all spring sports and tournaments but nothing has been commented on for the fall. He noted how the state has talked about reopening in phases.

In other business:
* The board approved the five-year forecast provided by Treasurer Sherry Stewart. The state statute requires that the forecast be presented in the fall and reviewed in the spring. Stewart said that she and assistant treasurer Patrick McGinty reviewed the figures and there are no changes to be made because everything is on par with what was expected.
* Board members approved a $65,000 advance to the food service fund to carry it through August. State law provides that regular wages are required to be paid during a pandemic. The district has been encouraged to provide lunches for all students, Saxer said. Records are being kept of how many students are accepting meals to be submitted to the state for consideration of reimbursement.
* Board members unanimously approved donations of $50 from Janet Sommers for the Alger Scholarship Fund; $850 from anonymous (Class of 1970) for a scholarship and $100 from Jessica Matz for the Greenhouse Fund.
* Board approved two contracts with Stark County ESC: $19,629 for ESC services and $7,200 for Family Support Specialist.
* The board approved a resolution for both the high and middle schools to renew membership in the OHSAA.
* The board approved a resolution that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and transition to distance learning the superintendent and treasurer have authority to make emergency purchases up to $50,000 with respect to continuing instruction and nutrition to students. The board also approved the district’s distance learning plan.

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