On Monday, August 24, 2020, via Zoom, Snoqualmie Valley School Board President Carolyn Simpson virtually welcomed SVSD staff to the start of a new, unprecedented school year amidst the continuing coronavirus crisis.
In late July, the school district made the tough decision to start the school year fully remote – after initially planning to get kids back to in-person learning with a hybrid instruction model.
Below is the speech given to staff at the August 24th SVSD School Year Kick-off event:
“Welcome to the new school year. And for those of you who are new to the district, welcome. We normally start gathering together with coffee and donuts, and I’m sorry we are missing that this year.
It goes without saying that none of us expected to be starting a new school year like this.
And, it goes without saying that none of us expected that when we closed our schools in March, it would be for the rest of the year.
You know what I worried about then?
- That little first grader who was working so hard with his teacher and para and just on the cusp of learning to read.
- The English Language Learner that had just started with us and was making steady progress before an abrupt stop.
- The AP high school student who was really stretching her mind and needed the teacher and her classmates to help prepare for the exam and her college dreams.
- The 8th grader who was just finally figuring out algebra, thanks to the teacher.
- The students involved in extra-curricular clubs and sports, the things that keep them excited about school.
- The Life Skills and Special Education students who desperately needed in person on site therapy and skill building to continue to thrive.
- The student whose only place in which she feels safe is school.
- The hungry ones.
- You know these kids by name, and I’m sure you struggled with losing those in person connections as well.
Today and always: Being with the teacher and our other staff in the classroom is what students need. You know that, and our board knows that. It is what all of you are so well trained to do. It is what we will get back to soon.
But, until then we place our hope in you to do this great work and make these student connections through a screen for the start of this year. You are vital to our community. Our students and parents need you, especially now.
I believe that each of you, as you face your students this year, will be seen as so incredibly important in their life. More than ever. I hope you know that. Our kids need you; it is so important to their learning.
These kids, like us, have had their entire worlds disrupted. They have been kept away from their classrooms and their classmates. They have not had the fun and freedom of being with friends on a regular basis.
They may be in a home with parents distracted by unemployment or constant online work. There may be financial stress or hunger in many of our community’s homes. And, our high school students recognize that graduation is looming, and they are concerned about the preparation for their future plans in this unusual environment.
You will be in the unique position to provide these students some normalcy. That sounds crazy right, because teaching and learning through and from a computer screen is far from normal.
These students are going to be looking to you to bring them that sense of normalcy. They are hungry for it. They will be like very dry sponges, waiting to soak up that good teaching you have coming their way. They will be delighted to build a relationship with you, albeit through a screen, and to see and work with their classmates again. They will treasure the distraction from the other stressors in their lives.
The manner in which you approach this unusual start to school will matter greatly to these young minds. We know this is affecting everyone, and we know it affects you also.
Many of you are struggling, and we know you are: with teaching remotely, with your own childcare needs, with your own economic hardships in your families, with missing your own friends and social networks.
We know, even with that, you can be and you need to be the light that can lead these kids, provide normalcy, and generate excitement about learning. Be confident in your abilities to do this. Inspire confidence that your students can do so as well. We are confident in your ability to do this work. It is critical that you use those precious hours each day each week with the students and just be normal.
Everyone has gone through chaos. What we need is normal.
We know this is hard. We have your backs in this work. This group of administrators that we have formed to help you do this important work is the best it has ever been. They are committed to helping you during this unprecedented difficult time, and these folks are exactly the right team to do it.
Led by our superintendent and assistant superintendents, Rob, Ryan, Ginger, and Dan – they are simply exceptional. Like you, they are committed to our district mission, and you should not hesitate to reach out to them and the rest of the team as we all adapt and evolve and make our way through this odd time.
We know this will not be easy. On top of all of this, we are facing an uncertain future in many ways. You are all probably well aware that we, and all districts around us, have some budget challenges, some could be very serious budget challenges, and we have little details as to what the future looks like as we work to balance revenues and expenditures.
Please know, we are committed to navigating through these rough waters, making the right decisions, and aiming for a safe harbor. We treasure our employees, we are committed to our education mission, and we ask for your grace, your patience, and your trust as we work to figure this out. We will figure this out, as a team, but it will take all of us, together, focused on student learning, to do so.
So, as you gear up to greet your students’ smiling faces, know that our entire school board is committed to supporting you. We know that new leadership and strategies and technology tools will help you. We look forward to a successful start to an unusual year. We are placing our hope and our faith and our trust in you.
We know that your gifts: your calm, friendly, enthusiastic, and normal demeanor will be a beacon of light for our students as they work with you during this virtual period.
They will look to you with hope, with curiosity, and for just a bit of normal. And, who knows, maybe, just maybe, after all this is behind us, we may even, and I think we will, come out of this not just normal, but maybe even better.
Thank you all so very much for all you do. Best wishes for the new school year.“
Carolyn Simpson, SVSD School Board President