Thousands of DPS students return to school for the first time in nearly a year

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – For the first time in nearly a year, thousands of DPS students returned to their classrooms Monday for full-time, in person learning.

There was a lot of excitement for students and staff at Horace Mann Elementary for this second “first” day of school. But there were also some nerves and even anxiety for some people, but the district says it was a smooth start. 

David Romick is a teacher and the president of the Dayton Education Association. He says, “Everybody was exhausted with virtual learning: educators, students, parents. God bless the parents.” Many DPS teachers say it was the right time to return to in person learning after 50 weeks away. 

Even though the teaching process was largely uninterrupted during remote learning, the district spent time the first day reviewing new changes with students, first with an introductory video. Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Lolli says, “Everyone reviewed the COVID guidelines, everybody probably reviewed their discipline plans.” 

About 75% of DPS students chose to return to the classroom. Plexiglass barriers are in place, social distancing is being followed, and new single-seat furniture is being installed. 

But the precautions go beyond physical health. Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro says, “It’s not just about their academic learning, we’ve been able to monitor that regardless of the mode of instruction. But it’s checking in on students’ mental health, their social and emotional well-being.” 

Dr. Lolli says, “We have a large number of our students that are nervous about returning because they haven’t been in school for a year.” 

Student Resiliency Coordinators hired through Dayton Children’s Hospital are working with students. And parents are encouraged to call their school if they have concerns about how their child is adjusting. “Then we can circle the wagons around that child and make that child feel very comfortable,” Dr. Lolli says, “and get rid of some of that anxiety at being new, or even returning to school.” 

In the classrooms, teachers say they can better see and hear their students, read their faces and reactions, and form stronger connections. Romick says, “Our kids will see a difference, I know our teachers will feel a difference in the education they’ll be able to deliver.” 

And it’s full steam ahead for DPS going forward. Superintendent Lolli says this district needs to be face-to-face and will not take a step backward to remote learning unless ordered to do so by the governor. 

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