What will be different?
By N3 News Team
Well, here we go.
After a spring and summer of scholastic uncertainty, school is on tap to begin Monday.
And folks are keeping their fingers crossed as we head into a new chapter of “Coping with COVID”.
Schools throughout the state are responding in any number of ways with some doing all remote learning, some attempting to bring all students back in the building, some offering hybrid models and the majority, including Newaygo County, offering options for in school or virtual.
Caledonia High School began in school instruction last Tuesday. Three days later after 4 students tested positive and a staff member began showing symptoms, they closed the doors and moved to all virtual learning.
We contacted NCRESA Superintendent Dr. Lori Tubergen Clark, who reviewed and approved the plans each district submitted as is required. She shared the common themes that each district had in place when it came to guidelines
Dr. Clark also noted each district would likely be a bit different in their approach.
As we mentioned in an earlier article, each of our unique districts are presented with their own challenges and their own ways of facing those challenges.
At N3 we understand that under the best of circumstances school folks are truly swamped this time of year, to say nothing of all that has been added on to the task of educating our progeny this year. However being media people we, of course, plowed ahead and asked the Supes if they might answer a few queries on the upcoming year.
Today and tomorrow we’ll share a couple of those responses as a way of looking at how each district is approaching this quagmire of unknowns that lies ahead.
But first off…
Each district has a section on their website that addresses many of the concerns parents have and includes ways to get more info. Please access these in lieu of turning to social media for answers. Believe it or not the schools have way more reliable info than can be found on local facebook pages.
NEWAYGO- Striving for 'normal'
Most expected to kick off the school year with Friday’s Lion football game against Kent City.
But that won’t happen until spring. While volleyball and soccer remain up in the air, cross country has been given the go ahead and Coach Mercer (our esteemed Editor) has a group of gridders logging some miles and learning to appreciate the athleticism of the harriers.
Beyond how high school sports will play out this year, there are numerous other adjustments of course. One is simply the reduced number of students roaming the hallways.
Newaygo Superintendent Dr. Peg Mathis reported about ⅔ of their students had chosen in person learning.
N3: Can you give a bit of a synopsis on what you believe school will look like this fall?
We are trying to make "in-person" school as "normal" as possible given the circumstances. Our start and end times for our school day are staying the same as in the past so families and students can experience that structure. Middle School and High School students have to wear masks consistently and elementary students will wear masks when traveling in hallways. All staff are required to wear masks. We have worked very hard to keep the daily schedules consistent as well. Class changes, lunch periods, specials classes and VOC classes are all staying consistent so the student experience is similar as in the past. While it is not ideal, we are trying to "do school" like in the past with the added layers of concern and safety due to COVID.
We do have students who have chosen Newaygo Virtual which is taught by Newaygo teachers. Their daily schedule looks significantly different, of course.
N3: How is online learning being handled in the elementary? Will there be one teacher per grade level dedicated to online or each teacher doing both? Any difference with MS and HS?
Newaygo Virtual is taught by one teacher at each grade level in grades K-4. For example, if there are 5 sections of 1st grade; 4 will be taught in-person and 1 will be taught by a teacher via Newaygo Virtual. This keeps all of our students in a similar place in terms of curriculum and pacing no matter if they've chosen in-person or virtual.
At the secondary levels, each teacher is teaching 4 in-person classes and 1 Newaygo Virtual class.
N3: What are the most significant challenges you see ahead? For Students? Parents? Teachers and support staff? Administration and Board?
One challenge that affects everything we do is communication. Students and parents can only know and learn things about our plans if they are willing to take time to read. This is true with anything in life. If parents don't stop and read school materials, letters, mailers, websites, and social media sites and educate themselves and if students don't read the material for their academics, no growth occurs and information is missed. I am guilty of this as well. People get busy in their lives and miss communications from family, work, and school.
Another significant challenge is compliance. I don't mean this in the "sheeple" kind of way where some think we are just supposed to be "controlled" by people on high who make us wear masks. Perhaps compliance isn't the right word. Just think; if everyone were to social distance, wash their hands, and wear a mask, we could be getting out of this mess sooner rather than later. I realize and understand how the issue of mask-wearing became political. Ultimately, though, the politicization of the virus has hurt our youth and we'll see the effects for years to come.
For students, a significant challenge is getting back into "school mode" and getting on track academically. Self-discipline is a huge component of this and for families that have chosen Newaygo Virtual, this will be especially tough.
For parents, a challenge is knowing when your student needs help, when to step in and assist, and when to sit back and let your student experience failure. These are very hard things to do as a parent in "normal" times, let alone during COVID. We want our kids to be okay and since nobody has parented during a pandemic before, this creates a whole new set of challenges.
For teachers and support staff, a challenge (like for everyone) is the unknown. Teachers want students to achieve. They want students to grow socially and emotionally. When masks and social distancing are thrown in the mix, teachers could experience the feeling of failure because how do you know if you're making a difference? The same is true with support staff. Connecting with other younger humans with masks on is going to be a challenge for all of us. The trick is to have faith in the process, do the best you can, and know that this cannot last forever.
For the administration and board, the challenge is that there is absolutely no way to make everyone satisfied and that is sometimes difficult to hear or deal with. The school leaders did not create this pandemic, yet we are expected to handle it flawlessly. Like many others, the board and administration has had sleepless nights for sure over this.
N3: Situations such as these often reveal the character of a community. What are the strengths and assets of the district in facing these challenges?
I said this in my message to staff. There is no other group of people I'd rather be in this with. We have an amazing staff and community. We are learning to extend grace to each other. This community is very special and that continues to manifest itself in the encouragement I (and others) have received from parents and community members. While there are struggles and frustrations as I mentioned, here at NPS we do feel like we are all in this together. I really hope we can continue to be "all in." Our kids deserve it.
Thank you Dr. M.
And again, please refer to the school’s website...
...where you will find a wealth of information about the coming year.