Mask-clad students at Lakota, Madison return to classrooms, Middletown hands out laptops

Locked out for nearly a half a year due to novel coronavirus shutdowns, thousands of area students Monday returned to in-person learning as schools opened in the Lakota and Madison districts.

The day also marked the first start of a new school year in remote home learning for Middletown’s 6,300 students and for Miami University’s nearly 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students as part of COVID-19 prevention plans.

Both Lakota and Madison used a staggered schedule start, with only about half its student enrollments attending classes as determined alphabetically. The remaining students will begin today.

The result, said one Lakota East High School student, was “very strange” and unlike the usual, upbeat and excited first day of school atmosphere he was used to at his school.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“I didn’t get the usual happy vibes from the school, and with everyone wearing masks, I couldn’t tell who my best friend was,” said junior Jacob Goldfinger.

Besides all students, teachers and school staffers wearing masks, the changes in schools were many, as numerous precautions to lessen the chances of spreading the coronavirus impacted almost every aspect of the school day.

While it was a different type of start for some students, it went smoothly at Lakota’s 23 schools, said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for the district.

“We are so excited to have our students back in the buildings. Using this week as a staggered start is allowing our students and staff to get used to our new safety protocols, such as wearing face coverings and social distancing,” said Fuller.

Next week, all Lakota students are scheduled to attend in-person classes five-days a week. Other area districts will begin their school years starting next week through Sept. 8.

Middletown’s 6,300 students will be learning remotely from home for an indefinite time until health and school officials deem it safer to return to school.

Many school families spent the first day picking up free laptops and WiFi devices to ease the transition into all-digital learning.

Middletown School parent Ally Tooler was among the school parents picking up 1,372 laptops from their local city schools.

“I think it will be good,” said Tooler of the remote learning, “but it’s going to be a lot of getting used to.”

Fellow Mayfield school parent Meygan Dunn said, “I’m excited to see they are providing computers for them and excited about what this year will bring.”

Dunn said she is more optimistic about at-home schooling going better compared to last spring when Ohio K-12 schools were forced to scramble to set up internet learning in just days after schools were ordered closed down by state officials.

“Last (school) year was definitely chaotic,” said Dunn. “I trust in the schools to make the right decisions and I look forward to see how everything will be handled.”

Madison Schools Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff said the first day of school for about half the district’s students went off without significant problems.

“Returning to school today was exciting for all of our students and staff,” said Tuttle-Huff. “Our students were smiling under their mask-clad faces this morning as the staff welcomed them back.”

Tuttle-Huff said no students exhibited coronavirus symptoms.

Staff Writer Nick Graham contributed to this story

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