Jefferson Twp., on the southwest edge of the city of Dayton, is the smallest school district in the Dayton area and fifth-smallest in the state. Ohio Department of Education data placed 2019-20 enrollment at 276 students. The district has scored low academically for years according to the state report card, and the schools struggled badly with staffing two years ago.
Explore2018 story: Jefferson schools understaffed; students miss classes
Jefferson Twp. students’ online classes have been taught by the district’s teachers, not via a third-party vendor. Teachers union President Brandi Delph said the union had no input in the decision to stay online for the rest of the year, but she added most teachers think it is the safest decision for students, teachers and staff.
All local public school districts that have gone in-person have offered families a choice to stay with online classes this school year. But there has been momentum for in-person school.
State and local health officials say COVID cases and hospitalizations are down in recent weeks, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has repeatedly said COVID spread in schools has been very limited when mask and distance protocols have been followed. A slew of educators have said that in-person learning has the most academic and social-emotional benefits, if it can be delivered safely.
Gates did not respond Tuesday to questions weighing the district’s virus concerns against those factors. His letter referenced a comment from President Joe Biden that “things will get worse before they get better,” and said the district would continue to monitor COVID data.
ExploreJanuary: COVID cases still high, but fall below late-2020 peak
Gates said Jefferson schools will partner with families “to offer a learning experience where our students will thrive and grow to reach their educational goals.” He said the district will host a “virtual family engagement night” in the near future, and encouraged families to ensure the district has their updated contact information.
“Continue to encourage your student to engage in their classrooms and complete work assignments so they are prepared to progress to the next grade,” Gates said in the letter.
Gates said the district is also working with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center to support its students. ESC Superintendent Shannon Cox confirmed Jefferson is one of several districts getting student engagement help through a grant and work with Graduation Alliance.
That outreach helps get disengaged students and families help with technology, tutoring or other needs so they can keep up with online learning. Cox said the ESC has capacity to help 81 Jefferson students.
ExploreLocal list: See which schools’ classes are in-person vs. online