Wow...the world is a different place as I sit and write this newsletter article. No one could have imagined or predicted the current reality of the world, the country, or the state. In January, people were just starting to learn about this virus and now COVID-19 is discussed by everyone nearly every day. We have learned to operate in a world where we are not gathering in social settings, we don’t greet each other with handshakes or hugs, and we stand away from each other whenever we are near others. We have learned what Safer at Home means and operate in a world where social distancing has become the norm.
As I write this article on the morning of April 9th, we are in our 3rd week or school closure. The order is for schools to remain closed indefinitely. No one completely knows what that means, but it certainly means that school is/will have been closed for at least six weeks. As you read this article, it is likely a decision about the remainder of the school year has been made and we are either back in school or the decision has been made to close schools for the remainder of the year. The closure of the school district brings with it many other cancelations and postponements. Many spring sporting events have been canceled, spring concerts have been canceled, the spring play was canceled, Prom has been postponed, the graduation ceremony is in jeopardy of being held on the scheduled date. The plan is to hold a Prom and to have a graduation ceremony at some point. They may have to be held in July, but the plan is to try to hold these important events. As we understand more about how long we will be expected to adhere to social distancing and having only small gatherings, we will have more details about what we will be able to do with Prom and graduation.
The closure of our schools has certainly changed how we operate. We had to figure out how to ensure students had meals. We had many people come together to ensure we were able to maintain the student meal program for kids. We also had to figure out what learning was going to look like and how to ensure kids still have learning opportunities available. We had to ensure that we used equitable practices so that ALL kids had learning opportunities. By putting in place review and enrichment opportunities for students through a combination of online learning and paper packets, we were able to keep some continuity for students, albeit not at all like face-to-face learning opportunities.
Although the learning could not be like it was when we had students coming to school every day, there were many positive things that continued to happen. Staff was reaching out and connecting with students on a regular basis. The ability to connect differently than when students and teachers are together in large classroom settings allowed for teachers to learn a lot about our kids through these conversations. We also had a number of staff members reading stories online for students to listen to and watch. We had teachers having very meaningful discussions with students about what they were learning and we found ways for students to demonstrate and reflect on their learning. Regardless of how the learning and conversations occurred, throughout this situation, we saw the continual care for our kids and families by the staff in the School District of Arcadia.
As you may have already heard, the School District of Arcadia applied for three waivers from the State of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. These waivers were for forgiveness of the mandatory number of instructional minutes required, flexibility regarding the requirement to pass the civics exam to receive a high school diploma, and the last waiver was for flexibility in meeting all criteria under the Educator Effectiveness evaluation system. The process to apply for these waivers required public hearings and approval by the school board. Upon approval, the request for these waivers was submitted and subsequently approved by the Department of Public Instruction.
As summer approaches, we begin to plan for summer school opportunities for our students. As of the writing of this newsletter, the plan is for summer school to take place as planned, but again we are unsure of how social distancing and the allowance of large group gatherings will look. If social distancing guidelines continue, it is likely that we will need to make some adjustments to our summer school programming also. If any changes are needed, we will sure to let you know as soon as we know.
As we near the end of the 2019-2020 school year and we prepare to see the graduating Class of 2020 prepare for their next phase in life, I want to personally congratulate them and wish them the best of luck. Although these seniors didn’t have a traditional end to their school year and had many of their activities canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will certainly be a senior year to remember. The last few months of their senior year weren’t how they envisioned them, but the memories that these young people have formed during their school careers will last a lifetime. These young adults have formed these memories and have gotten to this point in their school careers because of their hard work, their dedicated teachers and other school staff, and with the support of parents and the community. The support of parents, the community, and area businesses, and our dedicated school staff is what makes our school district strong and helps students reach their potential. Good luck Class of 2020!