Area schools battled safety fears, vaping and voucher uproar in 2019

When the calendar flipped over to start 2019 some of the major issues from previous years remained such as school security concerns, epidemic student vaping, complaints about inadequate state funding and an uproar about a historic change in private school vouchers.

School security in the last year continued to tighten as school district officials added security officers, digital safety tech and cameras and new procedures, which included the largest school active shooter drill in Butler County’s history during the summer.

Schools also cracked down on student vaping with Hamilton Schools leading the way by enacting a zero-tolerance policy.

Lakota Schools joined Talawanda and Ross schools as being among the first in the region to give laptops to middle and high school students at no charge with the freedom to take the portable computers home.

School voucher changes unleashes uproar from local public school leaders

A sweeping change in the availability of private school vouchers to public school students ignited a firestorm of criticism from public school officials in 2019. The state changes to the EdChoice program, which included the broad labeling of hundreds of public schools as “under performing,” saw thousands of more public school students become eligible to have public schools pay for their private schooling starting in the 2020-2021 school year.

Student vaping epidemic continues as schools draw battle lines

The last part of the 2018-2019 school year saw area school districts scrambling to combat the growing number of students vaping on school campuses.

Hamilton Schools announced some of the most aggressive measures in Butler County and some districts also enlisted the help of two Butler Tech students who lectured at various school systems to help dissuade students from vaping.

Lakota Schools launch free laptop program for students

Butler County's largest school district began to distribute free ChromeBooks to middle and high school students for their use – at school and at home – for no charge.

Some smaller districts, including Talawanda and Ross schools, started their student laptop programs in recent years.

Lakota officials, who oversee Butler County’s largest school system of 16,500 students, said the new program is a major part of their efforts to modernize learning in the district’s 22 schools.

Fairfield substitute teacher pleads guilty to public indecency while in class

The actions of a Fairfield Schools’ substitute teacher drew national attention in 2019 and raised questions about the criteria and vetting done to assure these part-time instructors are qualified and safe to be in classrooms.

Tracey Abraham was a substitute teacher in Fairfield in early 2019 but he had also filled in for full-time teachers at a number of other Butler and Warren County school systems in recent years.

Butler Tech draws national attention for free-class day experiment announcement

One of Ohio’s largest career school systems drew the spotlight of many in 2019 through their public unveiling of a new school calendar program coming early in 2020, which will be the first of its type in Ohio.

The “5th Day Experience” program is scheduled to start in February.

Butler Tech also continued it’s historically aggressive trend of recent years in opening new campuses in Monroe and at the Middletown Airport as well as building an addition on to its Bioscience School in West Chester Township.

Beloved Butler County school official and Hamilton board member dies

The likes of Hamilton Board of Education member and former high school principal and assistant superintendent for the district, who also held a wide-range of education positions throughout Butler County, won’t likely be seen again.

Alf died unexpectedly in November, just days after he had won re-election as the top vote-earner to the Hamilton school board.

Butler County school district site of largest active shooter drill ever

The usual quiet of the Ross High School and Middle School campus during summer break was shattered by fake gunfire as an active shooter training drill – which saw a man take Ross Schools superintendent hostage – was conducted in July.

The drill, which involved both the Butler County Sheriff’s department as well as police, fire and EMS crews from many area communities, was the largest symbol in 2019 that school security concerns remain paramount among local school districts. It’s a school trend likely to continue in 2020.

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