May 14, 2020
In response to the Governor’s March 13th announcement, closing schools in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, our administrative team and teachers worked very hard to quickly respond with a distance-learning plan to continue our students’ education. Although we are proud of the work we have done, and are overwhelmed by the cooperation, flexibility, and support we have received from our families, the plan was very reactive as a result of the immediate closure. Due to the immediate need for a response at that time, we did the best we could but were unable to gather the input from our families, forcing them to adjust to our plan rather than adjusting our practices to suit their needs. Because of our strong community, faculty, and partnerships, we feel that we put together a quality plan that was as flexible and responsive as possible. Our attention is also focused on the future. Specifically, the 2020-21 school year.
Now is the time to plan for and address the eventual reopening of schools, with an understanding that the health, safety, and wellness of students, families, educators, and staff must be a priority. But instead of being rushed and reactive, we have the opportunity to work together to proactively develop a plan that addresses the priorities of our families and stakeholders. To that end, I am requesting your time to share your opinions on how we can best reopen our schools. Over the next several days, we (IASD) will issue a survey to families that we are asking you to complete. The data gathered will help us plan for the next school year in case there is a closure or the need for some sort of hybrid model due to the pandemic.
Although we hope that this return will be an in-person, back-to-business as usual reopening, we must prepare for every scenario. Given the uncertainties that surround the COVID-19 situation, we are asking for your help. As previously mentioned, your responses to this survey will help us focus our efforts, so our plans are as in tune with the needs and priorities of our families and community to the highest degree possible.
There are 3 scenarios with which we could be presented by the Commonwealth and/or the Department of Education:
- We must re-open as normal.
- We must remain closed and stay virtual for some time.
- We must implement a hybrid model to reopen but follow stricter guidelines to protect the health and safety of our community based on the science and data at that particular time.
We are prepared for scenarios 1 & 2. This survey will inform the decisions we make should we be faced with scenario 3. Again, no final decision has been made at our level (IASD) or at the Commonwealth’s.
In this scenario, the Commonwealth will charge the school districts with deciding whether or not to reopen based on the number of cases present in our community at that time. They will also expect that we will follow all safety protocols established by the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health, such as social distancing, safety masks, cleaning procedures, etc. This could present us with a series of challenges that we will have to overcome. To further complicate the process, the data can and will change frequently. Thus, your patience and understanding are once again needed as we are required to be compliant with the Commonwealth and their directives.
We want all students, educators, support staff, and families to be safe when returning to school. Safety is always our first and most important priority. We also exist for the purpose of preparing children for their adult lives by providing the highest possible educational experiences. We have been working on a variety of plans that would balance those two mandates through a blended, part-time live teaching (in-house instruction), and part-time distance learning (online) approach. We cannot put our students or staff at risk, but we cannot allow them to fall behind. We need your help.
We recognize that some families may choose to place their child on a total cyber platform. While we believe distance-learning cannot replace students’ experiences with their teachers, we do however have the IDEAL program to offer. IDEAL is an incredible cyber platform that adds the benefit of our own teachers personally assisting students through their educational journey and, most importantly, is aligned with the IASD curricula and available for all students. Our goal is to continue to monitor the conditions and prepare to increase our capacity in our IDEAL cyberlearning platform for those parents who select this option.
In closing, I appreciate your time and hope you know that we all miss the daily interactions that can only be experienced in our classrooms and schools. We must all unite in our efforts to maintain equitable learning opportunities and safely return students to their schools. I am hopeful you can join us in our planning by completing the survey that will be sent out in the near future.
Mr. Michael J. Vuckovich
Superintendent of Schools