I venture to say that we all have goals and ambitions and that we’re all trying to make personal and professional improvements in our lives. I certainly have both personal and professional goals and goals for the students of Bay District Schools.
However, I must be candid and say that those goals are really on hold right now while we deal with the harsh reality of Covid-19 and all of the situations that go along with this pandemic. With a topic this important, everyone has opinions and most are convinced that their thoughts and decisions are the only ones that have merit. In fact, I literally hear every day from those who still believe Covid is a hoax and from those who firmly believe we should not have students in school at all. In 40 years of public education, I have NEVER seen a topic as divisive as this nor one that stirs up so much passion.
And I get it. Covid-19 literally is about life and death and our school systems are, unfortunately, stuck in the middle of these battles too many times. At the same time, while literally making decisions that impact the safety and security of those in our system, we’re supposed to be focusing on the individual academic achievement of all of our students and ensuring they all have a chance to accomplish their personal and educational goals while attending our schools.
It’s impossible to do it all as well, and as thoroughly, as we want to do it all!
We’re short teachers, we’re short support staff, we’re short office staff and we’re short on time. Covid-19 is causing multiple quarantine situations at our schools and our hard-working staff members are, once again, trying to figure out how to be present for the students in front of them while also trying to support those forced to learn at home as a result of illness and/or quarantine. And they are doing so while covering for colleagues who are also home due to illness and quarantine.
I truly want every one of our students to have a top-notch educational experience and for each of our parents to feel involved, informed and appreciated. I know parents and guardians are frustrated about our campus policies regarding visitors right now and I wish I could wave a magic wand to fix all of this.
In the world that is our Covid reality, however, we’re simply doing the very best job we can to keep our children in school as much as possible, to keep learning on track as much as we can and to ensure the continued safety of our students and staff to the extent we can influence that given state guidelines etc.
In short, we’re focused on survival at this point and that’s not where I like to be nor where I envisioned us being a year ago.
I am watching the local numbers as closely as I’m sure you are and I do see a decline in cases and that gives me some optimism for the near future. But as much as I want to “get back to normal”, I know that’s not really possible either. Covid-19 has left its mark on our community, on our families and on our children and we will be struggling with the aftermath for some time to come. From everything I’ve read, it’s clear that Covid-19 isn’t going away anytime soon and we’re all going to have to adjust to this new reality.
I asked an elementary principal recently how many students at her school she thought had been impacted by the loss of loved ones from Covid. She estimated that probably more than 25 percent of her students have lost someone close to them (family member, friend, neighbor etc.).
I can’t imagine the impact this is going to have on our children but I know that we’re committed to doing all we can to support them in their grieving and their fear. Our mental health teams are deployed throughout the county and they are doing everything possible to encourage our students, to counsel them and to ensure they have the resources needed. Similar resources are available to all of our employees and we send regular messages to them about the importance of self-care, of counseling and of taking time for themselves.
I wish I had a more positive update this week but I think it’s important that our community has a clear understanding of what we’re dealing with in our schools. This is the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced as educators and, I hope, it’s the biggest challenge we will ever face.
Please take time this week to thank the educators and support employees in your lives and those who are impacting the lives of your children and grandchildren. You can never underestimate the value of a kind word or two and I guarantee you that your thoughtfulness and appreciation will mean the world to our amazing employees.
Stay safe and God Bless!