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Niles students still waiting for Chromebooks

NILES — With students and staff easily adjusting to the start of the new hybrid-schedule school year, the district still is waiting for Chromebooks to arrive. However, a broadband connecting grant is helping students with remote learning from their homes.

Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen told the board of education at its virtual meeting Thursday the district is entering week four since the start of the 2020-21 year.

“I could not be more proud of our staff and students for how well this year started. Prior to the start on Aug. 31, there was a lot of anxiety among many people, which was understandable since the unknown is kind of scary. But our children and adults are all doing what they need to do for everyone to be safe. Kudos to staff, students and parents for stepping up to be safe so everyone can get back to school,” Thigpen said.

She said that at a recent meeting with Trumbull County superintendents and Trumbull County Combined Health District officials it was announced no students or staff members at any county school have tested positive for COVID-19.

Last month, Thigpen reported Niles had 500 Chromebooks on order, with hopes to have them by October. Board Vice President Mary Ann McMahon said the Chromebooks still are tied up by customs at the U.S. border.

While waiting for the Chromebooks, at least one device was given per family for the remote learners and then whatever was left over was given to the blended learners who attend school two days in person and then online the other days.

Officials said 20 percent of the students in the district, or about 430 students, went with the remote learning option, with the remaining 1,600 students doing blended learning.

To help families, the board accepted a $92,091 Broadband Ohio Connectivity grant to assist students at home get wireless access and connect to the internet with hotspots being made available.

In other business, the board accepted the retirements of five certified staff and two classified members that will occur during the 2020-21 school year.

The retirement resignations accepted are Kathryn DiChristofaro, Title 1 math / reading, Niles Intermediate School, effective June 1, 2021; Germayne Freeze, social studies, Niles Middle School, effective Nov. 1; Ronald Price, math, Niles McKinley High School, effective June 1, 2021; Michael Shrodek, language arts, Niles McKinley High, effective May 28, 2021; Deborah Tominey, physical education, Niles Intermediate, effective March 8, 2021; Holly Bozmoff-Moore, head custodian, Niles Primary, effective Jan. 1, 2021; and Kimberly Clegg, administrative assistant, Niles Intermediate, effective Feb. 1, 2021.

“They provided a lot of years of service in our district,” board President Tony Perrone said.

McMahon, who said she taught with some of the retirees, said they will be missed. She said the board will review which positions will need to be filled for the next school year.

Potential savings for all the retirements is estimated at $282,268, which will be reported to the Niles Financial Planning and Supervision Commission. The commission oversees the district while it is in state-mandated fiscal emergency.

The district offered retirement incentives to employees. Members of the Niles Education Association who are eligible for retirement and notify the district by Oct. 1 of their intent to retire this fiscal year will receive a one-time lump sum of $8,000. Members who notify the board between Oct. 2 and Dec. 1 will receive $6,000 and those who do so between Dec. 2 and March 1 will receive $4,000.

For the same dates, the district’s Ohio Association of Public School Employees members are offered $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000 respectively if they notify the board of their intent to retire this fiscal year.

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