As the week began, school staff took up their duties to begin the 2020-21 school year. On Monday and Tuesday, new staff had orientation, with all staff joining them for the rest of the week’s in-service. There is plenty to go over, for faculty both new and returning. Through a week of orientation and in-service, the halls of the schools, the classrooms and even the playgrounds remained empty and quiet.
Virtual-remote instruction will be the way this year begins, and it will be very much different from the way any of our schools’ teachers have taught before. It will also be a very different from what was done during the last nine weeks of the 2019-20 school year, after in-school instruction was halted, and the school buildings shuttered.
This first week, August 3-7 it was school staff only, in preparation for the return of students, at least virtually, next week. On Wednesday, teachers and other school staff experienced first-hand a little bit of what school will be like, at least for the first part of the school year. Where in previous years the day would have kicked off in the high school cafeteria packed with staff from across the district, this year, Schools’ Superintendent, Dr. Segura hosted a virtual meeting, on the internet-based Zoom platform. Zoom will be part of the teacher’s educational arsenal.
With staff spread across the county in living rooms and offices, but brought together virtually, Dr. Segura welcomed everyone to the start of a new school year. Some traditions had to be altered somewhat. Typically, it’s at this meeting where pins commemorating years of service are awarded, and new staff introduced. While some of those new to the district introduced themselves to their colleagues, the five, ten, fifteen and twenty-year award pins will be presented later, by the principals at the schools where those members of staff serve.
At the Wednesday virtual meeting, mission and goals for the district were discussed, and those present were encouraged to talk a bit about their own vision of education. The “Why, What and Who” of their own pathway through their chosen profession, education. This was preceded by a video was shown featuring several dozen students from across all schools and ages, introducing themselves and saying what they missed. Almost universally, our students miss being in school. They miss their teachers, their friends, and they miss sports and activities. They said they miss learning. What more motivation could any educator need?
Further, some nuts and bolts issues were attended to before the meeting was over and teachers and other staff could begin the task of preparing for the new school year. Next week, teachers will use the Zoom platform to meet with the students of their classes. Students not in attendance will receive a call, or their parents will, as a wellness check-in to make sure everything is alright and to see if there is anything they need help with in order to proceed.
It will be on Monday, August 17 that regular instruction begins across the district. Coursework will be done on the Schoology Learning Management system, purchased by the district. It should prove a far superior method of instruction than what was used for the final nine weeks of last school year.
It has been repeated consistently that everything this year is new. In every position, teachers, staff, administrators, parents and certainly students are doing something never done here before. We are all treading very new ground. Everyone is feeling their way and learning as they go. Will there be mistakes made? Of course, there will be. The important thing is to learn from them, adjust and keep moving forward. What has asked for is that everyone keep a positive attitude, everyone communicate, and everyone keep the focus on what it’s really all about, our students, our children.
The hope of everyone of course, is that this will be a short lived, temporary solution. The goal for everyone, from pre-K student to senior, and from newest teacher to the Superintendent is that students will be back in school full time as soon as safely possible. Until then, as Dr. Segura said, “we all need to work together. Together we can make this a successful year. Together we can do anything.”