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Tips for Returning to In-Person Learning

Our teachers and administrators have loved welcoming our students back to in-person learning this week! We know the transition from virtual to in-person learning can be challenging for students, so our coordinator of student wellness and online learning, Sarah Hawthorne, has put together some tips for parents/guardians to help ease the transition.

1. Welcome back

Being back in person with teachers, school staff and your friends is exciting, but requires some changes. Allow students time to reacclimate to what it means to be in-person for school. Establish a routine for them, and try your best to maintain it; of course, providing breaks, as needed.

2. Safety first

Be mindful of safety protocols that are in place in your student’s building as a result of COVID-19. Remind them to mask up, wash their hands frequently and maintain social distancing. If they are not used to wearing their masks for extended periods, encourage them to practice wearing them when they aren’t in the building.

3. Talk about it

With everything going on, anxiety, worry and other emotions are common in students. We encourage our students to always talk about how they are feeling with friends, trusted adults and/or a mental health provider, when needed. If you have any questions/concerns about practices and policies, or if you need assistance in speaking with your student about these tough topics, please reach out to your school administrator.

4. Be patient with yourself

Students have made so many adjustments and changes within such a short amount of time. Allowing time to re-adjust to in-person learning is important. Maintain a schedule, keep a steady rhythm and create stability moving forward. COVID has changed the way we operate within our world, and by supporting our students through these changes, we will equip them for success in the future. For more helpful tips on easing the virtual to in-person learning transition, parents can download the CDC’s Planning for In-Person Classes Checklist.


If you have any concerns, please reach out to your student’s building principal:

Chillicothe Primary School – Joanna Strawser at joanna.strawser@ccsd.us

Chillicothe Intermediate School – Josh Tripp at joshua.tripp@ccsd.us

Chillicothe Middle and High School – Dustin Weaver at dustin.weaver@ccsd.us or Matt Ballentine at matthew.ballentine@ccsd.us


in person learning

Opportunity for Students to Work One-On-One with NASA

Later this year, our fifth-grade through ninth-grade students, learning both in-person and virtually, will have the chance to participate in a space habitation project through a recent grant the district secured through the NASA Glenn Research Center. This project will give the students to the opportunity to discuss the project with NASA engineers and problem solvers via Zoom.

The project centers around one question - what will it take to live on Mars? Students will be asked to reflect on the community in which they live now. From there, they will have to decide what they want to implement in their community on Mars to make it a sustainable home for humans – this is where the research component comes into play.

Students will have the choice in which part of the community they want to build, so they can decide what they want to learn about. For example, they can choose between learning how to breathe on Mars, how to eat, how to get around and more.

After the research portion of the project is over, students will build model rovers using Legos and robotics kits. Letts and Good are hoping to build a mock Mars surface for students to test out their rovers.

“We’re going to utilize different kinds of technology for this project, so the students can share their thoughts and feedback, even if they’re currently learning from home,” said Good. “This is a great opportunity for students to be accountable for each other and to chase a solution, rather than a grade.”

After receiving the grant, Letts and STEM facilitator Amber Good received a virtual training and tour of the facilities. They also had the chance to talk with NASA engineers. These activities ensured Letts and Good were able to set students up for success with their projects.

“Part of my role as STEM specialist is to apply for grant opportunities,” said Dana Letts, STEM specialist at CCSD. “When I saw this opportunity for our kids to work directly with NASA, I knew we couldn’t pass it up. It’s not every day students get to work closely with top-notch engineers like those at NASA.”

This project is not mandatory, so students who have a particular interest in space should express interest to their teacher. If your child is interested in participating, contact Dana Letts at dana.letts@ccsd.us or Amber Good at amber.good@ccsd.us.

Keeping the Arts Alive in a Virtual World

Chillicothe Middle School Choral Director Kelly Frailly hasn’t let the pandemic stop her from producing the school’s musical. This spring, the middle school will be virtually presenting High School Musical, Jr.

Frailly had heard about other teachers across the country pivoting to perform plays and musicals through outdoor shows, drive-ins, live shows with limited audiences or performing via Zoom. She decided to go the virtual route so her students could do what they love in the safest way possible. The production will be filmed, and anyone who wishes to watch the show will purchase a ticket for an online viewing time, just like a real show.

“There are quite a few challenges that come with a virtual show, but I wanted to ensure the students didn’t miss out on something they’re so passionate about,” said Frailly. “We had to keep the cast small, rehearsals are complicated, and there’s new technology I need to learn, but there are tons of great opportunities as well.”

One opportunity is that students are learning about a different style of acting, further expanding their skillsets. Students also have the chance to play multiple characters because there isn’t a time limit for costume changes. Having a single set will also allow the crew to avoid the lengthy process of scene changes. The group is working to stay focused on the positives and to tackle the challenges as a team.

“The arts are a form of solace to so many people, including our students, so we have to find ways to adapt to make them possible this year,” said Frailly. “It helps to preserve the mental and emotional health of many and keep people functioning, focused and in a healthy mindset. The arts keep us alive in more ways than one.”

Beyond the musical, students have still been able to participate in band, orchestra, choir and art this year – it just looks a little different. Many teachers have found alternative ways to showcase students’ talents like outdoor concerts, virtual performances and digital galleries.

For the holidays, choir, band and orchestra are all doing virtual performances for their annual concerts. Additionally, Frailly and fellow choral director, Mala Kennard, are putting a Virtual Holiday Revue together, which will be full of students and staff singing, dancing, drawing and more that will be released over winter break to spread holiday cheer.

If you have questions about the upcoming musical, please contact Kelly Frailly at kelly.frailly@ccsd.us.

Preparing Online Learners to Return to In-Person Classes

As we head into a new semester, some students are returning to classes for the first time since last spring. To help students and families prepare for this big adjustment, high school assistant principal, Dustin Weaver, and the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, Alissa Putnam, have offered their advice.

“Returning to school with new COVID policies may be challenging for some students, especially younger ones,” said Putnam. “We recommend ensuring students get to know the new health protocols, including wearing masks, understanding the one-way hallways in the middle and high schools, learning different lunch rules and making sure to socially distance.”

Younger students may need to prepare for this transition by practicing wearing a mask for a long period of time. It is also helpful for students to get back on a schedule, such as waking up early and eating lunch at the same time daily.

Parents can also help students prepare to return to in-person learning by making sure that all outstanding online work has been completed. Middle and high school parents can check on missing assignments through the Missing Assignment Database.

“Former distance learning students returning to in-person learning should also build relationships with their new teachers,” said Weaver. “Communicating with teachers on Google Classrooms and attending weekly virtual meetings will help create and strengthen those connections.”

Teachers will help facilitate the transition through a period of review of first semester concepts at the start of the second semester to support Virtual Learning Academy students in their shift to in-person learning.

For more information, email Dustin Weaver at dustin.weaver@ccsd.us or Alissa Putnam at alissa.putnam@ccsd.us.


in-person learning

CCSD Partners with Local Treatment Center to Support Vulnerable Students

The district is pleased to announce its partnership with Another Chance Ministries (ACM), an intensive outpatient treatment center in Chillicothe that will provide support to students struggling with mental health disorders and/or addiction.

ACM approached the district earlier this year to see how they could better serve students. After several meetings, the decision was made to pursue a relationship that will provide several new benefits to students and their families.

This partnership will allow students struggling with addiction and/or mental health disorders to have access to treatments beyond what the district already offers, at no cost to the student or their family.

At first, ACM will initially focus on students in grades 7-12, with plans to extend services throughout all grade levels over time. Students eligible for support will be identified through the district’s Keys to Success (drug-free) program and potentially through staff recommendations.

“This is a valuable opportunity to reach struggling students who feel that they have nowhere to turn, or who believe no one can relate to their specific struggle,” said Greg Phillips, Keys to Success staff liaison. “Most of the counselors at ACM are individuals who have personally struggled with mental health disorders or the battle of addiction themselves.”

Because the counselors have gone through their own struggles, they are well-positioned to relate to this population of students and to be able to communicate with them effectively.

“We must focus as much on mental health as on physical health, especially during the pandemic,” said Phillips. “Our work with ACM will allow us to really focus on the well-being of vulnerable population of students.”

The partnership is slated to begin December 2020 or early 2021. If you have questions about the support ACM will offer, reach out to Greg Phillips at gregory.phillips@ccsd.us.

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

We recognize that not all students learn the same way, which is why we have implemented Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) in each of our buildings. This program uses data to help match academic, social-emotional and behavioral resources for each student’s unique needs. With these processes in place district-wide, staff are now able to provide individualized support systems for students.

There are three tiers in the MTSS program designed to meet the needs of every student:

Tier 1: Universal Instruction

This tier is the high-quality instruction that every student receives. This encompasses best teaching practices and differentiated instruction. When new methods are found to work well in the other tiers, Tier 1 is refined to incorporate these practices. The district’s goal, and the goal of other districts using this program, is to see 80-90% of all students in this tier.

Tier 2: Targeted Group Interventions

Students who may be struggling in the universal instruction model are assigned to this tier to receive evidence-based support. This instruction is implemented in small group settings. The small groups are determined by similar needs for the sake of systematic efficiency. The district expects to see 5-15% of students in Tier 2.

Tier 3: Intensive Individualized Interventions

For students who do not respond well to Targeted Group Interventions, we offer more frequent, intense and individualized interventions. We expect to see 1-5% of students in this tier.

If you have questions about MTSS, please contact the below individuals in each building:

  • CPS: Dustin Tyler, dustin.tyler@ccsd.us
  • CIS: Katrina Corbitt, katrina.corbitt@ccsd.us
  • CMS/CHS: Ashleigh Manantan, ashleigh.manantan@ccsd.us or Danni Williams, danni.williams@ccsd.us


Meet CCSD’s New Director of Technology

We are thrilled to welcome Cory Juillerat to the CCSD family as our new director of technology, although this is not the first time Juillerat has worked for the district. Most recently, he worked for Zane Trace Local Schools, but before that, he worked under Josh Montgomery as the field technician for CCSD. After five years outside the district, he is excited to return to the place his career began.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the students and staff at CCSD again,” said Juillerat. “It’s wonderful to be able to reunite with members of the Cavalier community that I knew years ago and to get to know so many new faces, too.”

In this role, Juillerat will ensure students, staff and community gain the knowledge and tools they need to excel in all areas of technology. One of his biggest goals for this year is to teach people how technology can strengthen learning, teamwork and a sense of togetherness, especially while participating in remote and socially distanced learning.

“Technology is a bigger part of learning than it ever has been before,” said Juillerat. “I have a great chance to help our students and staff understand how to best utilize different forms of technology to enhance this new classroom experience.”

Beyond supporting the CCSD community as we navigate the challenges of this school year, there are two additional projects Juillerat has enjoyed working on. The first is the construction of a giant mechanical bee, which will be on display at Chillicothe Primary School. This animatronic bee is being constructed by students at Southern State Community College and CCSD.

The bee project was started under former CCSD director of technology, Josh Montgomery, and is one of a collection of eight mechanical bees under construction. The remaining seven will be constructed by and housed at the Smithsonian Institute in an exhibit with a large hive.

The other project is the development of a state-of-the-art esports arena inside the Cavalier Athletic Center. The arena, slated to be completed this summer, will be open to high school students enrolled in the esports program. Students will have access to a wide variety of competitive games and computer science courses, helping them build career skills while working competitively as a team.

“While this school year is far from normal, it’s been a wonderful opportunity to bring our students, staff and community together through technology,” said Juillerat.

Cory Juillerat

Finding New Ways to Teach a Hands-On STEM Curriculum

Earlier this year, Dana Letts, CCSD STEM specialist, was recognized by Ohio STEM Learning Center as the winner of their 2020 STEM Leadership Award. This award is well-deserved, as Letts does everything from creating STEM-related programs, establishing community partnerships and writing STEM curriculum, to supporting CCSD principals, designing and leading professional development opportunities for staff, pursuing funding, and presenting sessions about STEM to local groups and businesses.

“I am extremely proud to be recognized at this level,” said Letts. “I feel that this affirms that what we are doing at Chillicothe City Schools is at the cutting edge of education.”

Letts hasn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic slow her down. In fact, she’s embracing it as an opportunity to reimagine almost every aspect of how STEM instruction is provided to students. This includes the adoption of new technology into everyday learning for both in-person and Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) students.

The addition of technology into instruction gives students more of a voice in their learning. For example, Letts and the other STEM staff have introduced a new element to the curriculum: Integrated Career Exploration (ICE) modules. This online, interactive tool allows students to explore STEM careers, including entomology, marine biology, botany, professional sports and other subjects at their own pace. ICE not only shows how STEM lessons directly tie into the real world, but also enables students to start thinking about what career path they may one day choose to pursue.

Letts has ensured that students participating in online learning are not left out of the hands-on STEM curriculum. On top of their access to the ICE modules, VLA students have access to engineering choice boards and will be given the chance to do in-person STEM lessons, if their family chooses.

“These in-person outings will be led by STEM facilitators in our local parks,” said Letts. “The expeditions will be a great option for our VLA students to experience the same activities as our in-person learning students with increased social distancing.”

To help with the transition to a socially distanced and virtual STEM curriculum, long-time CCSD teacher, Amber Good, is the newest CIS STEM facilitator. While Good will primarily work with grades 3-6, she will also lead some units and expeditions for K-2 this year.

Letts and the rest of the STEM staff look forward to incorporating technology into this year’s curriculum to ensure CCSD students get the top-notch STEM education the district is known for.

If you have any questions about the 2020-2021 school year STEM program, please contact Dana Letts at dana.letts@ccsd.us.


Meet Our K-6 VLA Staff

The K-6 Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) staff have been working hard to make the transition to online learning as easy as possible for the students and families who have chosen virtual learning this year. Meet the team responsible for making sure your student is learning and being challenged online while still having fun!

  • Kindergarten
    • Kris Wiseman and Tammy Morrissey are teaching VLA kindergarten this year. Kris is enjoying the new experience of online teaching and creating ways to make his lessons engaging and fun for his students. He’s also having fun teaching with Ms. Morrissey. Tammy can’t wait to see her kindergartners bloom into young readers and continue to collaborate with her team teachers. She sees this as a great opportunity to learn new ways to educate and learn.
  • First Grade
    • VLA first-grade teachers Deanne Davis and Christie Thomas love learning and are excited to learn along side their students this year, especially about using technology to teach. Christie, who normally teaches kindergarten, is looking forward to the adventure of teaching first graders for the first time.
  • Second Grade
    • Mary Ann Robertson and Ed Warner, our virtual learning second-grade teachers, can’t wait to provide an enriching online learning experience for the families who have chosen the VLA program. Mary Ann appreciates the tremendous opportunity to grow professionally as she guides families through mentoring their children at home.
  • Third Grade
    • Third-grade teachers Pam Blakey and Maisie Hurless are ready to tackle the school year. Pam loves learning how to best collaborate with students, parents and other teachers to create a positive, fun and safe learning environment. Maisie is looking forward to developing relationships with her students and watching them grow. While being online and out of the typical school routine may be challenging for students, she is working hard to ensure each student feels included, important and comfortable in this new learning environment.
  • Fourth Grade
    • Brenda Southworth and Lisa Bennett are the teachers for fourth-grade online learning. Brenda is looking forward to the challenge of teaching virtually. She can’t wait to help her students learn and build a sense of community, while having fun along the way. She believes that people need to love what they’re doing in order to get the most out of it, and virtual learning is no different. Lisa is enjoying collaborating with the other amazing VLA staff and working with VLA families.
  • Fifth Grade
    • Fifth-grade VLA teachers Renee Coffland and Marilynn Greer are excited to navigate this new way of teaching. Even though it’s been a big change, Renee loves online learning. She’s looking forward to providing the best online education for her students as they strive for a safe, healthy and successful school year. Marilynn has enjoyed exploring new ways to communicate and engage students while teaching VLA.
  • Sixth Grade
    • Deborah Pentecost and Angela Francis are teaching sixth-grade VLA. Deborah is looking forward to finding ways to spark students' interest in learning and building a sense of community while teaching virtually. She’s looking forward to the fun challenge of incorporating STEM into her VLA lessons. Angela is really excited to push herself to learn new ways of utilizing technology to teach and to step out of her comfort zone of how she has taught in previous years.
  • Intervention Specialist
    • Jennifer Hayburn is enjoying working with students in this different format and learning how to best support students in new and innovative ways.
  • Aides
    • Kim Ragland, Rose Hambick and Jaci McAllister are the aides for our VLA program. While this year is like none other, Kim is excited to work with the students in this new format and help ensure they have a great experience learning from home. Rose can’t wait to help teachers streamline this new way of teaching, while Jaci is looking forward to learning how to best support the VLA teachers so they can give students the best virtual learning experience possible.

If you have any questions about your student’s VLA experience, please contact their teacher or student wellness and online learning coordinator, Sarah Hawthorne, at sarah.hawthorne@ccsd.us.


Staff and Volunteers Ensure Students Have Food

There’s no way around it, life is difficult right now. For those in our community directly impacted by food scarcity, it is even harder. Our food services staff, along with volunteers, have been working diligently to provide students with daily meals over the last several weeks. Currently, they’re serving breakfast and lunch five days a week to 1,420 students.

Since we’ve pivoted to distance learning, the district has been providing free breakfast and lunch delivery for students in need, with ready-to-eat and non-perishable items. To maintain social distancing, meals are dropped at students’ front doors. This process differs from the normal process for providing meals during school breaks or closures.

“Normally during summer break, we take Babe the Blue Bus to designated sites and have students eat their lunch at that location together,” said Mary Montgomery, director of food services. “Now, we’re dropping off food to each individual resident’s doorstep.”

The way food services are being handled has evolved over the course of the pandemic. At first, staff and volunteers were doing meal delivery every day. Although Montgomery says she would still prefer to do that, it’s safer for students, family and staff to reduce the number of drop offs.

For parents and community members who want to help, there are opportunities to do so. You can visit 211.org to sign up to volunteer for most programs the district is offering to those in need in our community.

Montgomery strongly urges community members to follow the guidelines from state leaders – wear masks when you go out, check in on those living alone or in isolation, and keep in contact with teachers and building leaders. These are the most basic, yet impactful, things people we can do to help others at this time.

The district is continuing to accept sign-ups weekly, as more families are hit with the effects of the coronavirus. For those who need food assistance, email Mary Montgomery at mary.montgomery@ccsd.us and follow the automated responses to sign up.


CCSD Staff Have Been Busy with More Than Teaching

Our staff have been working hard to adapt to new teaching formats and digital learning opportunities. On top of that, they’ve also been using this time at home to participate in a wide array of professional development opportunities that will benefit our students. Teaching staff, for example, are focusing on furthering their knowledge in literacy, STEM and blended learning.

“The district has had numerous learning sessions planned for teaching staff throughout April,” said Alissa Putnam, CCSD director of curriculum. “The sessions have been well-received by staff. They’re thrilled for the time to learn, play and improve their own practice.”

Our support staff have been busy prepping meals for student breakfast and lunch deliveries, cleaning and sanitizing district facilities or completing their own professional development online. Others are taking this time to learn about important strategies and techniques for working with students that have specific needs beyond academics. For example, behavioral staff and school counselors are learning about students on the autism spectrum, students with sensory needs, students that have trauma-related needs and more.

“All staff continue to work hard to better understand student needs and how we as a district best meet them,” said Putnam. “The well-being of our students, not solely their education, is very much a focus of the whole district right now.”

What Can Parents Do to Help Teach Their Child at Home?

During these unprecedented times, it’s important now more than ever to engage with your student in their schoolwork. We understand the reality of students learning at home can be very challenging for parents, as you juggle your own work responsibilities, while ensuring your family remains healthy and safe.

As you navigate this new and temporary normal, CCSD staff and administrators are committed to making sure you have the right tools and resources you need to help your student succeed.  Alissa Putnam, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, recommends the following tips for parents of students at all grade levels when supplementing learning at home:

  1. Stick to a schedule.

Putnam recommends parents help their student establish a schedule. This schedule should consist of activities, schoolwork, lunch and some form of play to help mimic their routine at school. Creating and sticking to a schedule helps create a sense of normalcy and stability.

  1. Communicate with teachers.

Parents are also encouraged to keep in contact with their student’s teachers, whether they need additional help or not, via email, social media or learning platforms. Teachers are ready and willing to answer any questions you might have, and they want to hear from parents and students as much as possible during this time.

  1. Take breaks.

Putnam reminds parents this is uncharted territory for all of us. It’s okay for students and parents alike to take a break and process everything that’s happening as a family – it’s actually encouraged. Carve our specific time for you and your student or your entire family to pause andtake a walk, make a meal, watch a show or play a board game. Taking care of yourself and your family should be your top priority, but sometimes it’s the first thing that is forgotten.

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Parents are reminded that it’s okay if they can’t help their student get through all of their learning opportunities each day or week. The last thing the district wants is for this to cause unnecessary stress on families. Sticking to a routine is a great way to ensure your students gets learning time in throughout the week, but don’t be defeated if you can’t get to everything. You’re encouraged to reach out to your student’s teacher if you feel like they are falling behind for whatever reason.

  1. Check learning platforms regularly.

Regardless of a student’s grade level, parents are encouraged to check Class Dojo, Google Classroom or other platforms being used for teaching on a regular basis. We understand an assignment may slip through the cracks, but regularly checking these platforms will help students stay on track.

If parents or students have any questions, they are encouraged to reach out directly to their teachers or building principal. Please continue to check the district Facebook page and webpage for updates on everything related to COVID-19. Remember, we are all in this together, and we will be a stronger Cavalier Nation because of this!

tips for parents

Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?

As kindergarten enrollment approaches, soon-to-be kindergarten parents are likely considering what they should be doing to prepare their child for this next big step in their education. CCSD director of curriculum and instruction, Alissa Putnam, offers advice for parents who want to ensure their child is ready and eager to start kindergarten in the fall.

“One of the best things parents can do is to establish routines at home,” said Putnam. “Routines help children learn, give them a sense of control and foster their self-confidence. Parents can easily establish bedtime, mealtime and reading routines.”

Mealtime routines are critical as many children struggle at the beginning of kindergarten at mealtimes. Parents can practice opening containers or packaging with their children, so they are familiar with those processes when they get to school. They can also practice eating within a 20-minute timeframe  – the amount of time allotted for lunch period at school – and cleaning up after themselves once they are done with lunch.

For bedtime routines, parents can ensure children get a good night’s sleep with a predictable order of activities such as taking a bath, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth and reading a story or singing a song. As far as reading routines go, Putnam encourages parents to read with their children for at least 20 minutes daily to build language and literacy skills. Reading routines can be at bedtime or any other convenient time for parents and children. Putnam recommends allowing children to pick out the book to increase engagement and enjoyment of reading.

“Remember that students don’t have to have mastered any specific skills to enter kindergarten, but there are academic ways to help best prepare your child for kindergarten,” said Putnam. “ Identifying letters of the alphabet is a great way to have fun and challenge early readers.”

Putnam recommends books like Chicka Chicka Boom and Letter Town for teaching kids their ABCs. She also recommends classic nursery rhymes and songs as a means of teaching rhyming and sound awareness. Students can also practice properly holding pencils and crayons as well as using and handling scissors safely. If possible, students should work on recognizing or writing their first name.

“One of the biggest challenges that our students face is simply the separation from their caregivers and the ability to regulate their bodies, their feelings and emotions at school,” said Putnam. “Allow for opportunities for your child to be away from you and around other children his/her age. Independent play and play with a friend are essential components of kindergarten and anytime your child can 'practice' this skill, it will benefit kindergarten development.”

It is important to keep children engaged over the summer to support a smooth transition into school. Supportive activities and experiences should focus on the joys of early childhood, including playing and talking.

“Starting kindergarten is a big milestone for parents and students,” said Putnam. “Parents have a lot of questions and a lot of emotions, but they should remember they aren’t alone. The school community is here to ensure they feel ready to begin the year.”

For more information on how to prepare your student for kindergarten, reach out to Alissa Putnam at alissa.putnam@ccsd.us. 

kindergarten tips

New Esports Offerings Teach Students Teamwork and Strategy

Esports, also known as competitive video games, have become increasingly popular in the sports world, which is why CCSD has created their own league for students 13 and older. The program officially started last fall when Chillicothe’s team competed with Esports Ohio and made it to the finals in two of the three games they played.

In the upcoming spring season, students will compete against schools across the state playing League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate on a competitive level. They will also play Fortnite and Hearthstone on a club level, which means they will not compete through Esports Ohio, but in a more casual setting instead.

Esports are more than just video games – they provide students with a huge opportunity to receive scholarships.

“The prospect of scholarships is a huge part of why we pushed this program forward,” said Brian Lewis, esports coach. “These scholarships are on par with traditional athletics, in which students can receive up to a full-ride depending on the game and college.”

Beyond potential scholarships, the program offers numerous other benefits, including social and emotional peer support. While a wide variety of students have signed up to participate in esports, much of the team does not participate in traditional sports, so this is their opportunity to be a part of a team outside of academics. Esports provides those students with an avenue to compete against each other without being held back by physical, economic or social restraints.

“Students participating in esports learn teamwork and communication firsthand, outside of a classroom environment,” said Lewis. “As most of the games are team-based and require a high degree of coordination to be competitive, students are learning valuable skills.

Additionally, some games, like League of Legends, require a lot of pre-game planning in which players use their knowledge of the characters to strategize how to best play the game. This includes determining which combinations of items will produce the most ideal stats for their character against the composition of the opposing team.

Students also learn creative problem solving through esports. Players learn the limitations and extremes of the games and are able to push their abilities and use them in ways that, in some cases, the game developers didn’t even foresee.

A new arena for the district’s esports league will be built in the new Chillicothe Athletic Center when renovations begin this summer.

For more information about the esports program, contact coach Brian Lewis at brian.lewis@ccsd.us. To join the spring esports league, students can sign up at https://www.esportsohio.org/league/sign-up and see Mr. Lewis for a parent permission slip by Friday, February 28.


How Co-Teaching Benefits Students and Teachers Alike

Co-Teaching Benefits

Co-teaching has been implemented in a number of classrooms across the Chillicothe school district in an effort to create more opportunities for individualized learning, simplify classroom management and develop more well-rounded lesson plans. In co-teaching classrooms, two or more teachers work together to design and deliver instruction in a manner that benefits both the instructors and students. Assuring district families understand the benefits of this important classroom strategy to their student’s educational experience is important.

“Co-teaching is a huge asset to students because we’re able to give them multiple methods to learn materials,” said Beth Elliot, intervention specialist for middle school math classes. “When a class has two or more teachers, content can be presented from multiple perspectives. For example, I learn best using logic and rules, rather than visual-spatial instruction. My co-teacher, however, is a strong visual learner and is able to present information in that way. Between the two of us, students can find an approach that makes the most sense to them.”

Co-teaching is also beneficial because it lowers the student-to-teacher ratio. With multiple adults in the classroom, student behavior can be closely monitored to put a stop to disruptive behaviors before they become a distraction for peers. The presence of another adult in the room also encourages students to be more engaged because they can discreetly ask questions without feeling like they’re interrupting the lesson.

“My co-teachers and I can get to know our students better using this model,” said Elliott. “I’m more aware of what students have going on in their lives in and outside of the classroom, so I can refer them to the support services they may need and impact their lives in more ways than solely through what they’re learning in class.”

Co-teaching allows the teaching staff to combine resources and expertise, which ultimately speeds up the lesson-planning and development process. During the day, teachers can also meet with more students individually, spending time on what they need academically and emotionally. It also gives staff the opportunity to lead by example and demonstrate how to positively interact with others.

“We get to work with other adults collaboratively and effectively, setting an example for students,” said Kelly Price, second grade teacher. “Our team of teachers is incredibly close, and the students have bought into the positive, united culture we’ve established, which has positively affected the way they work and play together.”

To learn more about the benefits of co-teaching, reach out to Beth Elliot at beth.elliot@ccsd.us.

Creating Positive Classroom Culture at the Primary School

PAX Good Behavior

The Chillicothe City School District (CCSD) administration is always looking for innovative ways to improve classroom management. Earlier this month, primary school staff received training for the PAX Good Behavior Game, a powerful, evidence-based program that provides teachers with the tools they need to guide students through self-regulation, trauma-informed care, positive social behaviors and social-emotional learning.

“Through PAX, teachers are able to reinforce positive behaviors and reduce negative ones, which empowers students to develop desirable social interactions and self-regulation,” said Joanna Strawser, Chillicothe Primary School principal. “PAX provides teachers with strategies to encourage positive behaviors by setting expectations that are clear and consistent in their classrooms and throughout the building.”

It also teaches staff how to foster a nurturing environment in and out of the classroom that can support the development of children exposed to trauma. The program equips teachers with research-based approaches to support student development, allowing them to have a role in creating peer encouragement to create supportive classroom environments.

“We’ve seen positive changes in our first month,” said Strawser. “The teachers are eager to kick off the program and have started implementing small parts of it in their classrooms. We’ve already observed students being quieter than usual in the hallways and in transitions, which is a wonderful first step.”

Encouraging positive behaviors and leadership is a comprehensive effort within the district, and students participate in numerous programs for self-development. In addition to PAX, staff at the primary school have implemented Respect Awards, which students can earn daily for being respectful to themselves, to others or to the school. They also implemented On the Ball in the Hall, which is an initiative that encourages students to walk through the halls silently and in a single-file line. Classrooms are incentivized to receive On the Ball in the Hall certificates because the more they receive, the more rewards they earn, such as a pajama day.

Students also have monthly Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) goals. Students who don’t receive any disciplinary action for negative behaviors are eligible to participate in dance parties, free ice cream, movie days, roller skating and more.

For more information on PAX, visit www.goodbehaviorgame.org or email Joanna Strawser at joanna.strawser@ccsd.us.

How Reinforcing Positive Behavior Has Improved Our Classrooms

students snow tubing

While the Positive Behavioral Intervention & Reinforcement (PBIS) program has been established in the middle and high school for several years, teachers and administrators recently revisited the program and how it works in an effort to improve student behavior in the classroom. PBIS encourages and reinforces positive actions, rather than exclusively focusing on students who behave negatively and disciplining them.

For middle and high school students, behaviors are tracked on a level scale. Every day, students start out at level 0, meaning the student has shown no behavioral problems. Students receive a warning before moving up a level. If behavior doesn’t improve after a warning, they move up to a level 1, which leads to lunch detention. Level 2 leads to after school detention, and level 3 leads to the student going to the office, going home and in-school suspension the following day.

“It’s amazing how well PBIS has worked,” says Matthew Ballentine, middle and high school principal. “Students are significantly more motivated to behave well than they were before, because they know their good behavior may be rewarded.”

Throughout the year, administrators do random drawings for incentives such as a free ice cream or other perks to reward students who haven’t had any behavior issues. There are also two big trips for all students who remain at level 0 for an entire semester. In the fall, those students go snow tubing at Bell Fountain for $10. In the spring, students go to King’s Island for $20. Administrators are working on more fundraising ideas to make these trips completely free for students.

Students who aren’t eligible for these trips spend the day in the cafeteria with guidance counselors to discuss behavioral issues and how to improve them. Last year, 220 out of 400 students went snow tubing in the fall and 250 students were eligible to go to King’s Island in the spring. This increase shows staff and administrators that students want to do what’s necessary to go on fun trips with their classmates.

In the first 12 weeks of last year, 1900 students were referred to the principal’s office for behavior issues, and in the first 12 weeks of this school year, only 1100 students were referred to the office. Ballentine hopes to see those numbers continue to decrease as the year goes on.

“I was skeptical about PBIS at first,” said Ballentine. “But the improvements we’ve seen in student behavior in the last year and a half show how well it works. I’m continually impressed by the decrease in office referrals and detentions and by students who have changed their behavior for the better.”

CCSD Food Services Team Provides Meals to Families in Need

winter food boxes

During the winter months, Chillicothe City School District is working diligently to ensure students and their families have access to food. These initiatives include a mobile meals program to guarantee students get a hot meal on snow days and a holiday dinner for lower income families.

Last year the food services team launched the mobile meals program by bringing hot meals to specific drop off locations throughout the district during snow days. While all students have access to two hot, healthy meals during normal school days, the same cannot be said on days when school is canceled. To combat this, Mary Montgomery, director of food services at CCSD, put a plan of action together to ensure all students have access to balanced meals on snow days. With support from her staff, including Tabitha Muse and Sarah Hawthorne, the food services team was able to deliver 352 lunches during a snow day last year.

“This year, we’ve reached out to students and parents and asked them if they need lunch on snow or cold temperature cancelation days,” said Montgomery. “We’re now in the process of mapping out all of the locations and creating drop-off zones for those locations. We will make the lunches at the high school cafeteria and will have volunteers deliver them. Students and families in need can identify us by the #CavsCare decals on our cars.”

Another initiative started by the food services team is an annual Holiday Spirit Dinner, which was held December 10. The event was started by Montgomery in 2016 and involves serving meals to select district families in need. Each building principal invites families to the dinner, which takes place in the high school cafeteria. The event is kept private for families to enjoy a delicious dinner together during the holiday season without having to worry about the financial burden.

Community members can help those in need by volunteering over the holiday season at food pantries and at mobile meal drop-off locations.

“Our community does a great job of helping our students when we ask them to,” says Montgomery. “We’re looking into ways to raise awareness of the gap in food availability at pantries over the Christmas holiday and provide food to our students who need it.”

For food available during this year’s holiday break, please see the below calendar.

winter meals calendar

CCSD Holiday Performances Free and Open to All


To celebrate the holiday season, the CCSD Music Department is offering a wide array of performances spreading joy and cheer to all (see concert schedule below). Family, friends and community members are encouraged to attend these festive events that are sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

Music students are excited to share what they’ve been working hard to perfect over the last few months. Many of the compositions are holiday favorites, but there are non-traditional pieces as well. For example, the district’s wind ensemble will be performing a version of “O, Holy Night” that has an African rhythm twist, and many of the choral groups will sing songs in other languages and from other cultures.

“I like to sing Christmas songs in choir because when we all sing together, it feels like everyone puts away their problems,” said Caleb Barfield, high school concert choir member. “We’re united by all of us singing the same messages about a holiday we love.”

The high school choir will feature a semi-professional adult choir, The Renaissance Singers, as special guests during their concert. The Renaissance Singers will perform as part of the choir’s Cookie Walk fundraiser on December 10, and the high school’s symphonic choir will perform a piece called “Born on a New Day” at The Renaissance Singers’ holiday concert on December 19.

Spreading positivity through music during the holiday season has already begun in the community. Earlier this month, high school music groups performed at Chillicothe’s Downtown Open House to celebrate the beginning of the holiday shopping season. They caroled on the courthouse steps and played instrumental music in local coffee shops.  

“When singing in choir, I feel supported by the community and my peers,” said Murielle Ngalle, high school concert choir member. “Every time we sing a chord in a Christmas song, it feels like Christmas morning. It makes me so happy that I can’t help but smile, and I know it makes the audience feel the same way!”

See below for the full list of holiday concerts. We hope you can join us!


Holiday Concerts:

Dec. 2:

  • CHS Sound FX at VA Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Building #9, VA Hospital, 11 a.m.

Dec. 3:

  • CMS Orchestra Concert at CMS/CHS Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 8:

  • CHS Symphonic Choir at The Renaissance Singers Christmas Concert, St. Mary’s Church, 2 p.m., (Free admission with donations encouraged)

Dec. 10:

  • CMS Choral Concert at CMS/CHS Auditorium, 5 p.m.
  • CHS Choral Cookie Walk Fundraiser at CMS/CHS Cafeteria, 5:30 p.m., (All baked goods are $1 per bag)
  • CHS Choral Concert, All Holiday Roads Lead to Home, CMS/CHS auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 11:

  • CIS Band Concert, CIS Cafetorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 12:

  • CHS Orchestra Concert, CMS/CHS Auditorium 7 p.m.

Dec. 17:

  • CPS Second Grade Group A Concert, CPS Cafetorium, 5:30 p.m.
  • CPS Second Grade Group B Concert, CPS Cafetorium, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 18:

  • CMS/CHS Band Concert, CMS/CHS Auditorium, 7 p.m.

Dec. 19:

  • CHS Symphonic Choir, Caroling Tour of local schools, All Day, (also visiting Signature Healthcare)

New Resources to Support Students’ Social and Emotional Needs

As students develop emotionally, it is important to support their growth and teach them healthy mechanisms for processing. To assist with emotional and social needs, CCSD has implemented tactics in and out of the classroom for students of all ages.

Earlier this month, the district’s behavior specialist Emily Fox started going to kindergarten classrooms to teach students how to self-regulate and discuss their emotions. During these sessions, she introduces students to specific breathing techniques to help them stay calm during times of high emotion. Behavioral staff are also training teachers on ways to support students who have gone through traumatic situations, as it’s a difficult area to navigate without proper training.  

“It’s hard for teachers when they see students whom they care about struggling, but they don’t know the best way to help them,” said Fox. “The behavioral staff are passionate about not only helping the students through out-of-classroom support, but through teaching other CCSD staff about best practices to help them in the classroom as well.”

In other grade levels, the behavioral staff have been implementing lunch groups of five or fewer students. These students get together to talk about their emotions and work on issues in a socially appropriate way.

CCSD is working diligently to provide an environment in which all staff are aligned to provide the proper support for diverse needs.

“Staff at CCSD value and understand the importance of building relationships with every student who walks through our doors, providing a strong foundation for their studies,” said Fox. “Our teachers know the importance of taking the time to build those relationships, enabling students to feel safe and supported in an environment where they can learn and express themselves.”

According to Fox, students who have received support are making strides in self-regulation, forming trusting relationships with adults and effectively communicating their feelings, emotions and struggles in socially appropriate ways. While the district has plans to implement further social and emotional learning opportunities, there have been both small victories and life-changing improvements in this early stage.

CCSD to Install Vape Detectors in High School Bathrooms

Vaping Graphic

Vaping is an epidemic affecting young people everywhere. Adolescents are enticed by the flashy packaging, fruity flavors and engaging marketing campaigns. To help protect the health and safety of our students, our district has taken significant measures to prevent students from vaping on school grounds.

The district has invested in state-of-the-art vape detectors that will be installed in every high school bathroom by the end of December to detect when students are vaping and ultimately discourage it. Our staff is already on high alert when it comes to vaping, but we believe this will be an additional deterrent for students who might be vaping in between classes.

The district is also developing partnerships with local health authorities to implement preventative measures and educational programs on vaping for students and families. The district currently partners with local agencies providing Alcohol and Other Drugs (AoD) counseling services for students, as well as education within classrooms and extracurricular groups to ensure students are aware of the dangers of vaping and other drug use.

While district leaders are committed to doing everything possible to help mitigate vaping in our schools, it’s just as important for parents to be aware of the dangers of vaping and to take preventative measures at home.

“We encourage parents, guardians and community members to work together to educate students and other young people on the dangers of vaping,” said Sarah Hawthorne, high school guidance counselor at CCSD. “We urge them to talk openly with their students about concerns and about the studies that have been released on the detriment of vaping. Having open conversations about what is going on in students’ lives allows for parents and guardians to support them in healthy ways.”

Along with the addictive and damaging effects of nicotine, vapes use chemicals for flavoring that poison the human body, resulting in lung disease, cancer and in serious cases, even death. Since vaping is a new phenomenon, there isn’t a lot of research on its long-term effects on the body and brain.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain in the short-term, but scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of vaping in general. Some ingredients in e-cigarette aerosol could be harmful to the lungs in the long-term, but there isn’t enough research to know how those harmful effects will manifest. According to the CDS, aerosol can contain nicotine, ultrafine particles, volatile organic compounds, cancer-causing chemicals, and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead.

E-cigarettes are advertised using themes and tactics that have been shown to increase youth initiation of other tobacco products, including cigarettes. Research from the CDC showed that about 8 in 10 middle school and high school students – more than 20 million adolescents – said they had seen e-cigarette advertising.

We encourage families to talk to their student today about the dangers of vaping. For more information and resources on how to start that conversation, contact Sarah Hawthorne at sarah.hawthorne@ccsd.us.

Staff Participating in Literacy Training at Ohio State University

Literacy Graphic

As a district, we’re working hard to take measures to improve our students’ literacy, including investing in professional development for our teaching staff and in proven curriculum programming. This year we have partnered with The Ohio State University’s Literacy Collaborative, a research-based instruction model for literacy training and learning aligned to the Common Core Reading Standards.

The curriculum is specific to grades K-8 and focuses on the essential elements of phonics, word study and oral language development. It also provides students with many opportunities for authentic reading and writing opportunities, and features reading and writing workshops, including guided reading. The model provides our staff with options on how to teach literacy curriculum, because we know every student learns and absorbs information differently.

“The primary school staff is expanding their knowledge of the components of a balanced literacy program,” said primary school principal Joanna Strawser. “The first component we’re working on is interactive read-alouds, during which teachers read a story to their class and ask the students four specific questions as they read. The teachers ask what the students are thinking, noticing, feeling and wondering. We hope the interactive read-alouds will develop a joy of reading.”

The Chillicothe City Schools’ K-3 teachers and all school principals are participating in intensive Literacy Collaborative professional development throughout the school year. Teachers will immediately begin to implement strategies they are taught, in order to increase students’ reading, writing and language skills. Our goal is for students to read on grade level by the end of this school year.

To learn more about the Literacy Collaborative, contact Joanna Strawser at joanna.strawser@ccsd.us.

CCSD Response to Recent Threat

Chillicothe Logo


The below statement may be attributed in its entirety to Deborah Swinehart, superintendent, Chillicothe City School District, regarding rumors of a threat to Chillicothe High School.


(October 30, 2019) “Student safety is of the highest priority to our district, and we are firmly committed to keeping our students and staff out of harm’s way. It has been brought to our attention that there are rumors circulating of a potential gun threat at Chillicothe High School.

“We know this is concerning, and we have been working closely with the Chillicothe Police Department to investigate the threat and interview students and parents about the matter. Through their extensive investigation, they have determined there is no credible threat to students or our school. The police department is providing extra security to the high school today.

“School safety is an effort that takes vigilance by all of us. This is an important reminder that when we see something, we need to say something. Please contact us immediately if you have any concerns about student behavior or learn of any issues that might impact the safety of our students and schools.”


New School Safety Measures in Place

At CCSD, the health and safety of our students is of the utmost importance to the administration and staff. We have and always will go to great lengths to provide our students with a safe and secure learning environment, and this year is no exception. Although intruder incidents are rare, several updates have been made to the district’s safety plans to ensure our students and staff are safe in the event of an incident.

This year, we are partnering with the ALICE Training Institute (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) to better prepare our staff in responding to a potentially dangerous situation. ALICE is considered the number one active shooter civilian response training for all organizations and is widely used by schools across the country. In fact, more than 5,500 K-12 school districts have used the ALICE training method. Early this year, CCSD staff will participate in online response courses and active shooter trainings, and the overall district plan for safety will be evaluated by the ALICE Institute. At the conclusion of the training, the district will become ALICE Certified.

“We’re really looking forward to implementing the ALICE training program,” says Aaron Brown, director of secondary services and safety for CCSD. “The safety of our students and staff is the highest priority for the district. It’s imperative we give our staff the tools and training they need to respond safely in the unlikely event of an unwanted intruder.”

In addition to implementing the ALICE program, the district is focused on making all buildings more secure by installing state-of-the-art camera systems, a new key card entry system, and placing full-time resource officers and assigned local law enforcement officers in every building. In addition, two new initiatives focused on feedback from students and parents have been established.

“We want students and parents to feel safe through added security measures and training, but we also want to give them the resources they need to feel like they have agency in school safety as well,” says Brown. “That’s why we’ve created the Student Safety Council and implemented a Safe School Helpline.”

The Student Safety Council was created to give students a voice in our school safety protocols by providing feedback to the administration on current plans and identifying areas for improvement. The Safe School Helpline gives parents and students the opportunity to anonymously communicate their safety concerns, like bullying or threats, to district administration. Students and parents can call 1-800-418-6423 ext. 359 or go online at www.safeschoolhelpline.com.

For more information about district safety plans and contact procedures, contact Aaron Brown at aaron.brown@ccsd.us.  

Students Learn Valuable Skills Through STEM

It’s critical for students to have a well-rounded education so they are best suited for any career they choose to pursue. In fact, a 2018 study by Global Jobs Report concluded that nearly three out of four children entering primary school will hold jobs that don’t currently exist. To ensure students are getting the skills they need to one day hold those positions, Chillicothe City School District developed and implemented a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program for students in kindergarten through second grade. Last year, the district applied for STEM designation and quickly received it – a major accomplishment considering the program was established only two years prior. Now, the primary school has one of only four K-2 STEM programs in central Ohio.

CCSD STEM staff chose to integrate the program into schools with grades K-2 so that students wouldn’t have to wait until high school to be introduced to STEM curriculum. The goal is for students to be well-acquainted with STEM by the time they reach high school, as the curriculum is developed to immerse students in the program on a daily basis.

“One area of focus we’ve implemented in students’ day-to-day learning is an engineering program called ‘Adventures in Innovation,’” says Dana Letts, STEM specialist. “All students in grades K-2 are given a special notebook to use for their lessons and are taught how to use steps in the engineering design process to solve problems written about popular children’s storybooks. We’re always working to find new, creative ways to keep students engaged in STEM.”

Another student-favorite is the Muddy Boots and Backpacks environmental science program. The K-6 program was established in partnership with the Ross County Parks District, allowing students to have free access to all park properties. Students learn how to conduct research and have the opportunity go on expeditions in search of answers to their questions.

“In our early introduction to environmental science, students study ‘mini beasts,’ which are insects, worms and spiders,” says Heather Tarlton, STEM facilitator. “They learn general information about mini beasts in kindergarten, dive into more detail in first grade and go on to focus specifically on pollinators by second grade. Building upon previous years’ lessons and utilizing hands-on education, makes students enthusiastic for what they’ll learn moving forward.”

In addition to fundamental STEM lessons that are integrated into students’ everyday curriculums, the district has also developed VOICE (Variety of Individualized Choices in Education) lessons. Students are asked to vote for subjects they want to learn more about, such as zoology or botany, giving them influence and ownership in what they learn. The most popular subjects are added to the curriculum, while the topics with fewer votes are still taught through smaller units that students can choose to participate. VOICE allows students to be inquisitive and explore their interests, so when they join the workforce someday, they will hopefully know where their passions lie.  

Letts and Tarlton are excited to see how the STEM program evolves and impacts students in the future. They hope students will take more risks, see failure as an opportunity and invest in their own learning, skills that are just as important as the core curriculum areas outside of STEM.

“In five years, we hope to be the model for STEM programs at other schools in the area,” says Letts. “Before we implemented our program, we were in a STEM desert – meaning there weren’t any districts with that designation between Columbus and Cincinnati. We want to be able to give our kids, and kids in surrounding areas, a cutting-edge education.”

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