Last week the doors of our schools slammed shut for the remainder of the year with plans for education in the coming months being tossed into the laps of local school districts.
We contacted our local supes to get a little info on what these plans might look like. The first one featured an interview with Grant’s Brett Zuver
In the second we heard from Fremont Superintendent Ken Haggart
Then White Cloud Superintendent Ed Canning shared his input
Next up to the plate is Peg Mathis, Superintendent of Newaygo Public Schools
What has been done up to this point to prepare for distance learning at Newaygo Public Schools?
The leadership team at NPS has been meeting periodically since the closing. Before the executive order to close schools for the remainder of the year, there were so many "what ifs". Now that we know we have to put a Continuity of Learning plan in place, we have a few less "what ifs" but there are still a lot of unknowns.
As a superintendent, I have worked to keep all of the staff informed as well as the school board. I write a COVID-19 Update for staff every couple of days just to share what I know which includes factual information and sometimes it includes encouragement. I think up until this point, I have sent out 14-15 updates. We have also been trying to post pertinent information on the school website in the form of a Q & A and use social media outlets to try to keep our community informed.
What do you foresee as the most difficult challenges moving forward?
The most difficult challenges moving forward include trying to meet the non-academic needs of students as well as trying to get them access to school content so they can learn. This is an incredibly stressful time for families. I also have to balance the demands from policy-makers who say we need to educate kids with the realities of what people who have school-aged kids are going through.
Specifically for the seniors what is being looked at?
I am sad for our seniors. This is not the way they should be going out. So many events that previous graduating seniors have taken for granted are no longer going to happen. All students are probably experiencing some sort of grief but our seniors especially are faced with the reality that their formal K-12 experience is ending. Our goal is to still have the Edward T. Grodus banquet, but it will look much different as it will be video-based. We still want to have a commencement ceremony and hope to do that in the summer.
How have your teachers and staff responded to the situation?
Our teachers and staff have responded in a variety of ways. On a professional level, they are ready to roll up their sleeves and do what they can even though the task seems insurmountable. On a personal level, they are sad for our kids and very worried about them. School employees don't choose to work in education because of the vacations or other perceived benefits they appear to have. School staff work in the schools to help kids. When they cannot see the kids they serve on a regular basis, it stings. Frequently, I get emails from staff who, on a daily basis, have emotions that fluctuate greatly. Finding ways to manage emotions while trying to think about online (or paper/pencil) remote learning can be challenging.
What has the county collaboration looked like (with other Superintendents and NCRESA)?
County collaboration has been very helpful. We have been meeting as a Superintendents' group to figure out logistics and to put together the Continuity of Learning plan. When developing a plan to move forward, we have to consider the needs of students with IEP's, students in Career Tech Ed programs, etc. Having all local districts and the NCRESA work together is critical so we don't duplicate efforts.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with the Newaygo Public School community?
We are in tough and unpredictable times. We can let ourselves get caught up in the emotion or we can remain calm and know that this won't last forever. The young people in Newaygo County are watching us adults. They will emulate our reactions to this crisis. It is not easy, but the more the adults can maintain any kind of normalcy, the better. Two of the best things a person can do is to find healthy ways to relieve the stress you are feeling and to work at maintaining connections with others. One of my "go to" sayings is forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. We will all have to be very forgiving in these trying times.
Dr. Peggy Mathis
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