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Orion Academy Celebrates Families and Rewards Students

Orion Academy staff members were excited and happy to hold two events in May. The first in early May was called, “Taste of Orion.” All families were invited to the school for an evening event where food famous to Cincinnati was served. The other event later in May was a carnival to reward students for reaching various goals during spring testing.
 Skyline Chili Dog station
Guests waiting in line at the Skyline Chili coney dog station.

Taste of Orion
Principal Taneka Smith wanted to create a fun event to welcome parents back into the building after COVID-19 protocols changed. “We wanted parents to get reacquainted with the leadership team, staff and just be in the building again,” Smith said.
In choosing the food, each dean took on a different food that was unique to Cincinnati.
  • Skyline Chili coney dogs
  • Donatos Pizza
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Principal Smith’s special nacho bar
  • Dessert table
All the food tables were in the gym, which was standing room only. About 175 parents and students attended. New and prospective families were able to come to the event as well. They could also go on a tour and learn more about Orion Academy.
 Orion principal Takeka Smith
Principal Taneka Smith, left, is at her special nacho bar station.

While the families were there, they were updated on various summer learning opportunities for students. Staff provided grade level information tables. Parents received a packet of education materials that can be completed during the summer with their children, as well as age-appropriate chapter books.
“The packets had to do with reading strategies, vocabulary, and comprehension. We focused on taking the time this summer to read the chapter book together,” Smith said. “The students will also take home their Chromebooks so that students can work on Lexia and DreamBox.”
Orion Academy Carnival
For the Orion Academy carnival, Principal Smith and Instructional Coach Jacqueline Godsey chose various criteria in the state testing process where they could give tickets to students who earned them. In total, 194 students earned a pass to enter the Orion Carnival out of the 250 students who were eligible.
 Orion student carnival
Students earned a pass to enter the Orion Carnival.

Grades three to eight took state reading, math or science tests. For kindergarten through third grades, they earned tickets for other criteria since they do not take state tests yet.
Test proctors and monitors could distribute the tickets to students if they were focused, or for the number of paragraphs they wrote. They could get a ticket for using RACE: Restate the Question; Answer the Question; Cite Text Evidence; and Explain What it Means.
“We really focused on giving tickets directed around writing and staying focused with it,” said Smith. “We have seen that writing is a real challenge for our students based on our test results.”
 Orion student carnival
Students enjoyed playing the many carnival games.

Godsey worked with a local vendor to rent the carnival equipment to use on a school day. The types of games included skee-ball, ring toss, plinko, and basketball free throws. There was an inflatable soccer game and basketball game, just to name a few.

Students could win prizes, everything from slime to fidget toys, to stuffed animals. “Students walked away with arm loads of prizes,” Godsey said. “Each wing went out as a group and were able to spend 90 minutes at the carnival. Teachers were able to go out, too, and enjoy the carnival with the students.”
School support staff ran the games. Concessions were available as well, cotton candy, popcorn, and sno-cones.
 Orion parent event

Both events were well-attended. The opportunity for community and seeing families together in the school gym for the Taste of Orion was perfect, Smith said. Seeing students and teachers enjoying sun and games was awesome as well, Godsey said.
Orion Academy is a free public charter school in Cincinnati, Ohio, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. National Heritage Academies (NHA), a charter school management company in Grand Rapids, Mich. has over 95 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 60,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For more Is information, visit

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