SABINA — The first day of school at East Clinton was marked Tuesday by “lots of smiling eyes from the kids and the teachers both,” the superintendent reported.
For the restart five months after the state-mandated March closure of schools, Supt. Eric Magee visited each building, sticking his head in the majority of classrooms where a split start-up schedule and a virtual learning option made for noticeably smaller class sizes.
But Magee also observed relationship-building between teacher and students, made more doable by the smaller number of students.
Sabina Elementary School Principal Matt Willian pointed to that byproduct, too, saying staff members reported the small numbers made it easier for them to build relationships with their new students.
Teachers were able to spend time with each individual pupil and get to know them personally, he said.
Nonetheless, it was a bit surreal to have those small class numbers, remarked Willian.
There was 100 percent compliance on mask-wearing at Sabina Elementary, said Willian at the Tuesday evening school board meeting held there.
Students repeatedly hear the point made that everybody is wearing a face covering in order to stay in school, the principal added.
Middle School Principal Robbin Luck said the first day of school there was a little quieter because of the reduced number of students.
Students at the middle school did excellent on the mask requirement, according to Luck.
The middle school message this fall consists of three “Ds” for easy recall: “Do the mask; distancing; and disinfecting.”
Partly to keep a sense of normalcy, school photos of middle school students will be taken on Sept. 1 and Sept. 4.
Resident Carol Coleman donated hand-made masks of two different sizes for middle school students, said the principal.
In Magee’s report to the board, he said the school buildings received good marks during a health department inspection. One health department recommendation, he said, pertained to soft surfaces that aren’t very cleanable, and thus probably need to be removed during these times.
He took the opportunity to thank the Clinton County Health Department for its input and support through the entire restart planning process.
Magee said when he emailed or texted the Clinton County health commissioner, she responded very quickly, usually within the hour.
The biggest challenge East Clinton is trying to work through, the superintendent said, is obtaining enough digital devices in case the district has to go entirely online before its backorder for Chromebooks arrives. That arrival time potentially could be in the November through January time frame due to a backlog of orders.
Magee said all EC students who chose the full-time Virtual Learning Academy option for first semester are covered with Chromebooks, as are all in-person students grade 6 and up. If the district goes into an all-remote “red” operations phase — like last spring — there are about 100 laptops for each elementary building.
Accordingly, he believes the district is about 50 to 60 short of covering every student with what it currently has on hand.
“So we have some irons in the fire to try to figure out how to cover that 50,” said Magee.
Board member Robert “Doc” Carey asked what the extent is of an online connectivity problem. The superintendent said they are having students fill out a survey to get the exact number and the names.
There presently is at least a doubling of the hot spots that were available to district students this past spring, said Magee.
On the afternoon of the first day of school, East Clinton received a letter it’s been waiting for from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. The letter informs the district the Ohio Legislature passed re-appropriation legislation and as a result funding for EC’s major construction and renovation project has been released.
As reported in April by the News Journal, state funds for the project were frozen due to uncertainties caused by the pandemic.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.