Piqua BOE discusses online learning outcomes


By Aimee Hancock

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PIQUA — The Piqua City Schools Board of Education heard an update from school administrators Tuesday regarding last year’s implementation of online learning due to COVID-19 and the results from the program.

As with several other districts throughout Miami County, Piqua City Schools utilized the SchoolsPLP program via Odysseyware to offer an online schooling option for those students who opted to forego in-person learning as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Piqua High School Principal Rob Messick, this online option resulted in positive outcomes for many students, but left some with uncompleted credits and a gap in learning. The district is offering a summer school program in an attempt to help students recover from these setbacks.

Messick said there are currently 167 students enrolled in the summer program, with 39 of those working toward credit advancement to either free up next year’s schedule or to earn an honors diploma. Roughly 120 of the 167 enrolled students are working toward credit recovery. These are students who did not meet the credit requirements last year needed for them to advance to the next grade level. Of these 120, Messick said, 30 are working one-on-one with specific teachers to receive additional support for certain classes or with their individual education plans. A total of 98 students are finishing existing classes they had enrolled in online last year but did not complete.

Messick said one issue faced by the administration is getting the students who would most benefit from the summer program to actually enroll and participate.

“Specific students were identified by our guidance department, teaching staff, and administration to encourage participation in summer school. We lost touch with a lot of these kids,” Messick said. “We’ve already gone out to 27 homes for personal visits to try to reach out to these families to get the kids working and to just tell them what we have to offer. We’ve had marginal success with that.”

Along with home visits, Messick said teachers and administrators have logged over 200 phone calls since the closing of school in an attempt to reach students, but noted it has “been a struggle.”

“Unfortunately, we kind of knew that if kids weren’t doing (the work) during the school year, it was going to be hard to get it done in the summer,” he said.

On a positive note, Messick said within three weeks, nine students have already completed their summer courses and recovered their necessary credits. He said teachers and administrators are willing to assist students in any way possible to get back on track.

“We’re available, and we’re able to work with them,” Messick said. “It’s the same thing I’ve told (the board) all along, if I can put one of my staff in front of these kids, we’re going to get them where they need to be. It’s trying to figure out a way to get that to happen that’s been the biggest challenge.”

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a resolution declaring it necessary to request tax payer approval for a substitution of a current emergency tax levy for the district. This request will appear on the November 2021 ballot. In May 2003, voters within the Piqua School District first approved an emergency tax levy generating $2,100,000 per year for the purpose of providing funds for the emergency requirements of the school district. This levy was first renewed in November 2008, and again in May 2013 and November 2017, all with zero increases.

“Every time this levy comes up, people say, ‘Why is it an emergency levy; are you in an emergency?’ We’re not, but we’re not because we’ve got these funds in our budget. If they left, we would be back into an emergency situation,” said Superintendent Dwayne Thompson.

This year, instead of asking for renewal of the existing emergency levy, Ohio lawmakers have allowed school districts with expiring emergency levies to ask voters to approve a new substitute levy to replace it. This new levy will result in no increase for tax payers, but would allow schools to receive additional revenue when there is new construction, both residential and commercial, within the district boundaries, which the current emergency levy does not. This new levy would also retain the property tax rollback provision for residents.

“We’re nearing 15 years of asking for no increases in our operating funds and that’s a pretty good tribute to the work that we’ve done,” Thompson said.

The current emergency levy is set to be in the final year of collection in calendar year 2023, however, if the proposed substitute tax levy is passed by electors, any remaining tax years on the 2017 Emergency Levy will not be collected after 2021. The new levy would then be set to begin collection in calendar year 2022.

Additionally during Tuesday’s meeting:

• K-6 Director of Curriculum Teresa Anderson gave an update regarding elementary summer school. Anderson said summer school was open to any student who wished to attend and 218 students are currently enrolled, which is a larger number than usual.

• The board approved a list of $250 donation from the Valley Church to the PCIS Grade 6 Blanket Project; and a list of grants totaling $6,883 to go toward various school programs and activities. Grant donors included the Miami County Foundation, Piqua Community Foundation, and a Waste Reduction grant.

The next BOE meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 20, in the Board of Education office.

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