DATE: 26 July 2020
FROM: Dale Brungardt, Superintendent
It has been a whirlwind of activity the last several days. I was planning to provide you with information concerning the delayed start of the school year for students on Friday. Unfortunately, we had to change the course and adapt to latest challenges Covid is presenting. This means that the message on the delayed start has a different feel due to the unfortunate event of a positive identification of one of our Bearcats; but nonetheless we will press on and cover both in more detail as you read on.
First of all, know that our thoughts are extended to many of you as you begin a quarantine order that has impacted our junior high students involved in the summer conditioning program. We will continue to think of you, your continued well-being and improved health. We are a “pride” of Bearcats and we will stick together and get through this with our Bearcat Pride.
Second, let’s talk about the delayed school start. On Friday, the BOE engaged in a very meaningful discussion. They took into account the gravity of this situation, problem-solved, and made a decision based on what they knew at that moment of time. That decision stated that USD327 would start school with students on September 3rd. Teachers and staff would report respectively on their regular start dates – August 3rd for office staff and August 17th for teachers.
In addition, here is what else we know:
- Start date of August 17th for teachers – how that all looks and who that all includes is still to be planned.
- Start date for students is September 3rd.
- Currently no changes are required to our school calendar.
- Teacher and Staff training will be ongoing from now until the start of school and as the year develops.
- Many teachers will join the Teaching To Tomorrow group and will start meeting this week to start solving problems. Committees include: Health, Classrooms, Special Classrooms, Transitions, Common Spaces, Transportation, Food Service, Technology, Facilities, Extra and Co-curriculars.
- The Bearcat staff will meet via Zoom at 9 AM on Monday
- The County Health committee will meet Monday at 1 PM.
- The Distict Health committee will meet Monday at 2 PM
- Our district is undergoing a new contracted service for technology transition this summer. There have been ups and downs. We are continually improving and more is completed each day, but there are still bugs with our district computers.
- Teachers and staff are able to be in the buildings to prepare for the coming year.
- USD327 is working closely with the Ellsworth County Health Department and monitoring all aspects of the health of our district and buildings.
- Our current approach is to bring everybody up to speed on the latest information and then review, refine, and hopefully re-open safely on September 3rd. That is our main goal that we are focused on.
- Our main teaching is for face-to-face learning. But we will be ready to teach remotely (on-line) if need be; or, in a format now known as “hybrid”. Hybrid teaching includes a change in the school day and a mixture of face-to-face and remote learning.
- More on how learning will take place will be coming soon.
Now we will shift gears to the third item of this message concerning the confusion Covid presents. Since the start, this pandemic has been, and continues to be, a significant challenge. Real versus not real, masks v. no mask, lives on surfaces v. doesn’t live on surfaces, and on and on… Truth is, medicine and science are changing their answers every day. The point is, it is very fluid and dynamic or in other words changing all the time. It is very difficult to “know” exactly without a doubt what the next step is. There are little known or technical answers to this process and it is very adaptive situation, meaning that we have to make the best decision with what we know at that particular time. We must all know how to pivot and adapt on short notice with each different development.
As the teachers gear up to start the new school year, know that we are committed to providing a safe and healthy educational experience and work environment for all of our students, employees, guests and patrons. We also endeavor to be a positive service to our community and we do that by doing what we do best… teach kids! It is in the interest of these goals, that we will continue to stay in touch with you and keep you informed. Drafts of what school could look like will be coming out in the next couple weeks or so. The info we put out is all subject to board approval, so please keep in mind, even though it comes out as information; it may change in the future. As always, Be GREAT and Be WELL!