Since the creation of the Purple Star designation program for Ohio schools by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) in November 2017, local school districts have been well represented. This week, six more schools in the Big Walnut and Olentangy Local school districts were awarded the designation for their commitment to students and families connected with the military.
The six newly awarded schools in the third round of designations are Big Walnut High School, Harrison Street Elementary, Hylen Souders Elementary, Olentangy Orange High School, Scioto Ridge Elementary, and Liberty Tree Elementary.
Those schools join Olentangy High School, Liberty Middle School, Olentangy Hyatts Middle School, Olentangy Shanahan Middle School, and Big Walnut Middle School as Purple Star Award designees.
“A supportive school environment can have a significant impact on our military-connected students,” said State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria. “These Purple Star schools provide our children and families with the resources they need to be successful. We’re thankful for their service and honored to continue the important work of improving services for Ohio’s military families.”
According to the ODE website, requirements for becoming a Purple Star school include having a staff point of contact for military students and families who serve as a liaison between them and the school, and that liaison completing professional development on special considerations for military students and families under federal law, as well as identifying and informing teachers of the military-connected students in their classrooms and the special considerations those families and students should receive.
In addition, each school is required to keep a dedicated page on its website that features resources for military families.
Schools must also complete an optional requirement, such as providing professional development to additional staff on special considerations for military students and families, passing a resolution publicizing the school’s support for military children and families, or hosting a military recognition event that demonstrates a military-friendly environment.
Purple Star designations are good for two years, but for Matt Cox, principal at Big Walnut’s Hylen Souders Elementary, he doesn’t want the award to be a fleeting honor or effort.
“We’re very proud of it, in the building and in the district,” Cox said. “We don’t see this as two years and we’re done. We want to see this as an ongoing effort. Next year, we want our (high school football) tailgate to be a little bigger. Our week in the spring when we celebrate our military families, we want it to be bigger. We didn’t want to do this to get the designation, we wanted to do this to better serve the families.”
Along with the tailgate at a Big Walnut High School football game, which served to connect military families from around the district, Hylen Souders also held a “Purple Up” week. Purple is chosen as the signature color for all military branches, as it combines the primary colors of all military branches.
Big Walnut High School held military appreciation nights at basketball games in January and will have a military appreciation night at the Sept. 21 home football game against Marysville.
Olentangy Orange High School held a military appreciation night at a game last year and will do so again this year. Orange also put together a military signing day last month to honor its students who are heading to the military after graduation.
On top of the Purple Star program, ODE has also created the Ohio Network for Military Families and Veterans, which “provides an online hub of necessary information and relevant tools for principals, counselors, teachers and families,” according to a press release from the ODE.
The press release states there are 34,000 children in the state of Ohio with one or more parents serving in the military, and students could attend as many as nine different schools throughout their K-12 school experience.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.