Back to School: Students in Troy city district return for 2020-21 academic year

Back to School: Students in Troy city district return for 2020-21 academic year
Heywood Elementary School first-grade teacher Angela Laird (right) helps student Madalyn Lee adjust her face mask Tuesday on the Troy City Schools' first day of both in-person and online learning. (David Fong/Troy City Schools)

TROY — For the first time since March 13, Troy City Schools hosted students as the district opened for in-person learning and debuted the Troy Online Academy to start the 2020-21 school year.

“We are incredibly excited to have all of our students back, whether it be in person or through our Troy Online Academy program,” Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper said.

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"Because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it was a summer unlike any other we’ve ever had in this district, but I am proud of the hard work all of our employees put in to make sure our kids have the best possible educational experience, either online or in person. Overall, we thought the first day of school went really well, especially considering all the new challenges we are facing this year as a result of COVID. "

Roughly 3,300 students returned to school in person for the first time in almost six months. Last spring, Troy City Schools went online for all students when Gov. Mike DeWine closed all schools in the state.

The students who saw online learning saw a different school than they had ever seen before. Social distancing was established whenever possible, in common areas, classrooms and on school buses. Per a state mandate, all students were required to wear face masks on buses and in classrooms when social distancing could not be achieved. Hand sanitizing stations were installed throughout all of Troy’s school buildings.

“Student and staff safety is always our top concern,” Piper said. “Our maintenance staff worked hard throughout the summer to make sure our schools are as safe as possible. We are taking every precaution possible for our students and staff.”

More than 900 students chose to join the district’s fully remote Troy Online Academy. These students will have the opportunity to work both with Troy teachers and independently for the first semester, after which they can choose to remain in the Troy Online Academy or return to in-person learning.

“Our Troy Online Academy consists of Troy teachers teaching a Troy curriculum,” Piper said. “We wanted our online students to have an opportunity to get a Troy education. We know we have outstanding teachers in this district and wanted our online students to have the opportunity to learn from them.”

Every Troy student, whether they are learning in-person or online, is being loaned a Chromebook. Not only will in-person students use the Chromebooks in class and for homework, but should Troy go to hybrid learning or fully remote learning if the pandemic worsens in Miami County, they will be able to use them at home.

“One of our goals in this district was to have 1-to-1 technology for our students,” Piper said. “We were able to do that much quicker than we had anticipated. Our technology team deserves a lot of credit for getting more than 4,000 Chromebooks ready to loan to students. We’d also like to thank the Troy Foundation, which generously donated the funds to purchase Chromebooks with touch-screen technology for every kindergarten student in the district.”

Troy City Schools also benefited from a federal grant, which will allow the district to provide free breakfasts and lunch for every student in the district, both in-person and online, until Dec. 31. Students may receive these free meals regardless of financial need.

“This is another great opportunity for our students we are looking forward to,” Piper said. “Our food service staff is outstanding and always looks forward to feeding hungry students.”

Due to high temperatures, Troy City Schools dismissed two hours early Tuesday and will do so again Wednesday. Only one of the district’s nine school buildings has air conditioning.

“Again, we are always looking at student and staff safety first and foremost,” Piper said. “With all of our students and staff wearing face masks this year, it only added to the problem of the high temperatures and lack of air conditioning. It’s always uncomfortable in our buildings on hot days, the face masks just made it that much more difficult for everyone.”

The district’s school year will end May 27, 2021.

“We know we face many challenges in the coming days, weeks and months,” Piper said. “But we feel confident that our students and staff will rise to these challenges, whatever they may be. We are going to continue to dream big, work hard and succeed.”