Ideas for More Than a Pandemic Year
Safety. Equity. Learning. Flexibility. Communication.
As the Lockport Township High School District 205 Board of Education faced the Covid-19 global pandemic, Board members established these five principles as their guiding priorities. Certainly, this summer will be a time for us to assess our success and struggles during this pandemic school year. We kept the people on our campuses safe, but at a cost. Our Covid-19 Dashboard chronicled low person-to-person transmission of this disease in our classrooms, on our buses, and during activities and athletics. The cost involved adopting new habits such as wearing a mask throughout the school day, social distancing, cautious lunches, few school events, and experiencing many different types of learning from full remote platforms to hybrid learning to full, in-person learning. For some students, exposure to peers with Covid-19 at home or at school triggered preventative quarantine periods, separating students from school.
We focused on equity in terms of providing all students, regardless of circumstances or background, with access to school resources. We did so regardless of Covid-19 conditions and through the adoption of several different types of learning. We also did so by creating space in our daily schedule for students to meet individually with teachers. There is a phrase that has been popularized during this pandemic that I would submit is inaccurate: “learning loss.” School never closed. Teachers never stopped teaching. At times, conditions dictated different formats and methods of learning, and I know our students learned invaluable lessons about self-management and working in online environments that will assist them in their futures. They learned and learned to adapt.
Throughout this pandemic year, we found that flexibility, the willingness to change when necessary and required, opened us up to new possibilities for students and teachers. At times, change was fatiguing, exhausting, and perhaps, maddening in light of our desire for normalcy. Ultimately, this flexibility allowed us to treat situations personally and innovatively. While our students, parents, and staff members might have faced tremendous challenges this past year, we hope that communication was not one of them. From our website to weekly updates, to videos we published, we learned that community, relationships, and trust in challenging moments are built on consistency and clarity in communication.
We also learned that these words are more than just ideas for a pandemic year. As we look forward to August 2021, safety, equity, learning, flexibility, and communication will take on new importance. Just as it appears that vaccination and mitigation have helped us overcome Covid-19, it also appears that our emotional and social safety will be important for our recovery as school resumes. Equity is a school and national issue as we ask ourselves how our high school district and nation can be places where all individuals have access to all of the resources of our campuses and communities. Learning is at the heart of what we are as a school, and this pandemic has provided us with new uses of learning tools and time to engage students. We learned that students need class and need to be in class, but just as important is access to individual teachers. We will be embedding time for that personalized learning into our weekly schedule. Personalized learning is also flexible learning, and options for students and teachers allow them to perform at their best. Finally, we know that timely, clear, and transparent communication builds trust and relationships with our students, parents, and staff members.
Throughout this pandemic, our students have been the most resilient and adaptable people to experience it. Now, it is up to the adults -- parents and educators -- to envision what we have learned in this pandemic and make it a reality.
Dr. Robert McBride, Jr.