Lakota Welcomes Back Students in a Whole New Way

Lakota Welcomes Back Students in a Whole New Way
Posted on 08/25/2020
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first week recapLakota welcomed back its 16,800 students last week in a whole new way. While relationship building was still in the forefront, students and staff also spent the first days of school becoming accustomed to new safety procedures.

For the first time, the district began the new school year with a staggered start schedule. Students attended school on either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday, with Friday used as a professional development day for staff. “We wanted to give our students and staff the opportunity to begin the year in a smaller group setting,” explained Superintendent Matthew Miller. “In addition to the traditional adjustment period at the start of any school year, we also have many new safety procedures for in-person learning and a new online school for our students enrolled in Lakota’s Virtual Learning Option.” 

As part of the new safety procedures for in-person learning, students and staff returning to Lakota’s 23 schools did so while donning masks and neck gaiters. Physical distancing reminders are posted on walls, seats are farther apart and hand sanitizer stations are available at entrances to the buildings. “We want our students and staff to be safe,” said Miller, explaining that district leaders have spent countless hours since May planning how to return to school safely this fall. “We’ve relied heavily on the guidance of the Butler County health commissioner as well as the Ohio Department of Health, the CDC and infectious disease experts when building our responsible reopening plan.” On July 31, members of Lakota’s board of education voted unanimously to reopen its schools five days per week, along with offering a virtual option for families who did not want to attend class in person.

Lakota was one of the first districts in the area to require that face coverings be worn by all staff and students unless a medical waiver was approved by a school principal. Teachers throughout the district are finding creative ways to assign learning areas. Painters tape in a rainbow of colors can be seen dividing tables as a gentle reminder to stay at least three feet away from one another in class. 

Part of the planning also included surveying families, students and staff in May and June. In response to families wanting an option for online education, the district announced the creation of Lakota’s Virtual Learning Option (VLO) in June. Curriculum for this completely online K-12 education was created by Lakota teachers throughout the summer. “It was important to us that we meet the needs of our families who would not want to send their children to school this fall,” said Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Keith Koehne. “Whether that reason is for health concerns or the student prefers to learn in a more self-paced online environment, VLO allows our students to remain with Lakota, receive a Lakota education and be taught by a Lakota teacher.” Over 4,000 students have enrolled in the VLO, making it Lakota’s largest school.

VLO students also participated in the staggered start schedule, giving both students and teachers the opportunity to get used to a new way of learning, technology and scheduling. 

While it may be a new way of learning, students throughout the district were excited to “meet” their new classmates and teachers via Zoom. “Students were eager to share about themselves and dive into the learning,” said Hopewell ECS first grade teacher Asha Ruiz. “I’m so excited to watch our virtual classroom grow as a first grade family! I loved hearing the children remark about how excited they were to see their friends again.”

Fifth grade virtual learners from Endeavor Elementary had a similar reaction to the start of school. After reading the book Unique Monique by Maria Rousaki, teacher Jackie Bender had her students create a slideshow to share how they are unique as a way to get to know one another. They also used the Zoom meeting as a way to get to know their new teacher. “Students learned about me by asking questions in the chat…(and) helped to create virtual classroom rules and expectations,” said Bender. 


All students began learning on their regular schedule Aug. 24.