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Here's how the Valley's first day of school during the COVID-19 pandemic looked

School districts have developed in-person, hybrid or remote learning models for the start of the school year. Officials reported only minor issues and most said they had a pretty smooth start on Tuesday
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The first day of school looked different this year with many students returning to school on Tuesday under in-person, hybrid or remote learning plans.

Officials at some school districts contacted by Mahoning Matters said they experienced minor issues on the first day but nothing unexpected in the new learning environment.

Here is how the first day under the new learning models looked on Tuesday.

In-person learning

Lordstown Local Schools allowed students to choose to be remote or in-person for the first nine weeks of the school year. Superintendent Greg Bonamase said the first day went well with about 85 percent of students choosing to return in-person.

Between the small district and the number of students that have chosen to go online, classrooms were set up to maintain the six feet of social distancing that is required by the Trumbull County Health Department.

Students are also asked to wear their masks, maintain social distancing and sanitize their hands regularly.

Bonamase said the students, especially high schoolers, have been giving positive feedback so far and also understand how important it is to follow all of the safety precautions.

“Overall, the feeling around the building is it’s great to have the kids back,” Bonamase said.

Poland Local Schools had about 82 percent of students choose to be in-person for five days a week and the remainder of students chose remote learning.

Superintendent David Janofa said the students seemed excited to be back at school.

“I think there was a genuine appreciation for being here, having their teachers here and having their friends here,” Janofa said. “They understood the parameters.”

The district removed any nonessential equipment materials from classrooms in order to make more room for students to be socially distanced in the classrooms.

Thermal imaging devices take every student's temperature before entering the school. They will get a green light to proceed or a red sign if their temperature is too high and they will not be allowed into the school.

Parents are also asked to check students' temperature before putting them on the bus or dropping them off at school. The parent puts a note in a pouch to show their child’s temperature was checked, and the notes are collected at the start of the day.

Janofa said no students in K-12 reported a high temperature on the first day.

Janofa said one first-day challenge was caused by the increase in students that are being dropped off by parents rather than taking the bus, which resulted in a traffic jam. He expects the traffic to get smoother as the week goes on.

“Until we get a clear understand of how things are going to be working on a daily basis, [we] just appreciate some patience and understanding and flexibility as we go through these first couple of days,” Janofa said.

Hybrid learning

Liberty Local Schools returned Tuesday with a blended learning model.

Students were divided into two groups that attend school two days of the week and the rest of the classes are remote learning. On Wednesdays, groups aren’t in school so it can be deep cleaned. Liberty students also had the option of remote for the first quarter.

Superintendent Andy Tommelleo said students have been able to transition smoothly on the first day. Every student's temperature is checked as each arrives, is required to wear a mask and classrooms have been set up for social distancing.

For K-6th-grade students, about half of them are in the building and the other half chose remote learning. In the high school, more of the students chose to return in-person.

Tommello said walking through the buildings, students and teachers were on task from the start to get back to learning.

“You could see from the younger students in the primary grades, there was some trepidation, but the teachers and administrators work really hard to settle any anxieties,” Tommelleo said.

Remote learning

At Youngstown City Schools, the entire district will remain remote for the first nine weeks. All students have been given a device for schoolwork and wifi service, if necessary. About 5,300 students are enrolled for the start of the year.

Denise Dick, director of communications and public relations for the district, said people experienced some technical issues, but it was expected.

“Obviously the first day, the first time we are all remote, we’re going to run into some little hiccups but nothing dramatic or major,” Dick said.

If a student experiences technical issues, a remote support phone number is available during the day as well as an online form that goes to the district’s technical support listed on the homepage of the district’s website.

Students are being taught on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays are for student independent learning, office hours, educator training and professional development.

The district plans to reassess the plan before the nine weeks is over to determine if students should stay online or return in-person.

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— How's the start of school going in your district? Have an experience to share? A teacher to honor? An innovation to share with other parents? Tell Mahoning Matters at news@mahoningmatters.com.

 



Ellen Wagner

About the Author: Ellen Wagner

Ellen Wagner reports on municipal services and budget cuts in Youngstown. She is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.
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