On Sunday, March 15, Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended that all schools close for a period of four weeks, which runs through April 10.
Like most all schools, Waverly-Shell Rock immediately began to have discussions related to how we would serve our students during that closure. Since we were just entering our previously scheduled spring break we had to contend with the fact that many staff members were out of town during that time, and therefore unavailable. This week, however, we have begun to make plans in earnest.
This week we shared resources with students and parents to help them think about things they could do while away, with the idea being that it was important to maintain a somewhat “normal” schedule. The focus was not necessarily just on content, as we also included ideas related to physical and social-emotional health and well-being. We have also spent this week engaging with teachers in order to carefully plan the next couple of weeks. We want to ensure, as much as possible, that students are continuing to learn every day.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, our staff members will be in contact with students to check in with them, encourage them, and to make themselves available (remotely!) to any student who may need something. Students will also begin to receive things related more closely to the content they have been working on while in school.
We understand that not everyone has equitable access to online activities, so we’re also providing materials that don’t require Internet access. We are also making devices available to our kindergarten through fourth grade students who may not have one at home to use. So far, we have passed out over 60 of those.
Many people have wondered if the school is going to be providing meals while school is closed. The school nutrition program is heavily regulated, with every district having to follow different rules based on their unique demographics. I’m happy to say that we were finally given approval to provide meals to anyone under the age of 18.
Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned regulations, we are only able to distribute lunches at Southeast Elementary. That does not mean, however, that only Southeast Elementary students can come by and receive meals. This program is open to anyone age 0-18, regardless of the school or district they attend.
We will be passing out both breakfasts and lunches starting on Monday, March 30 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and will do so on Mondays and Thursdays, with six meals going home on Mondays (covering three days) and four on Thursdays.
As mentioned before, schools are to be closed until April 10. However, there is a very distinct possibility that we could be closed beyond that day. While we’re currently focusing on what we can do for our students over the course of the next couple of weeks, we are also considering what a long-term plan would look like. If we’re faced with that scenario, we want to be prepared to engage students at a different level.
Given that we are still in this initial shut-down, the Department of Education has told districts that they can’t “require” students to do schoolwork. We anticipate that that guidance would change if we’re faced with a longer shut down, and therefore our expectations of students would change at that time, as well.
Finally, it’s important for me to share with all of you an observation about our staff. It goes without saying that they want students to stay current with their studies. But more importantly, they want them to be well.
Many have reached out wondering how they can help. Many have communicated with students and parents. Many are willingly learning new ways to engage with students remotely. Many are going well above and beyond what is necessary or expected. It is often during crises that we see the best in people, and that is certainly what I have seen from our staff members this past week.
Please do what you can to help slow the spread of this virus. The small part you play could have very well have an impact on when our students are able to return to school.