It is hard to believe it has been a year since COVID truly entered our lives. A year ago, as an OSSAA board member, I attended a press conference where it was announced that we would postpone the State High School Basketball Tournament. I remember standing at the podium answering questions with the phrase, “We really don’t know what we are dealing with at this time.”
The postponement of the state tournament would lead to cancellation of all classes and spring sports. Comprehending the changes we have seen can be overwhelming.
How students learn in the age of COVID has been very different depending on where you live. Many metropolitan districts across the nation have been in various versions of distance learning for over a year. Some districts have opted for an “A-B” schedule where half of the students attend on Monday and Tuesday while the other half attend on Thursday and Friday. Many rural districts across the nation made relatively no modifications only to be forced to close because of COVID outbreaks.
As you know, we chose to remain open five days per week while imposing a mask mandate based in the COVID infection rates for Logan County. We added many cleaning protocols that were only shared internally but required more effort from our staff. This is possibly the most demanding option a district could choose, but arguably the best to deliver instruction for our students.
I’ve had many members of the community thank me as our district has remained open despite the quarantines necessary to maintain low infection rates occurring at school. I would encourage you to thank our staff as often as you can because they are the people who have been on the front lines making this happen. As a parent, can you imagine a scenario where students were at school for only two days per week and in distance learning for three days per week? How would that affect your work schedule and the life of your family?
Educational experts told us it would take two years to recover the lost instruction of last Spring. As we examine our scores and discuss this challenge with our staff, it appears we are ahead of what the experts predicted. We have used the test scores of previous GPS students to determine if our current students are reaching expectations for their grade level.
As a whole, we are being successful at recovering our lost instruction at a faster rate than expected. I would attribute much of this progress to our decision of offering in-person instruction five days per week for our students. Our staff has played a huge part in making this happen. As our students regain their lost instruction, we want them to ultimately exceed the expectations set prior to a COVID world.
I am hopeful we are on the downside of this nightmare.
Just recently, we announced the closure of our COVID Testing Hub due to a lack of demand. As I write this, we are seeing the lowest infection rates since mid-September. This has coincided with our first staff vaccinations. Thanks to the support of the Logan County Health Department and our vendor, Total Wellness, we were able to offer vaccinations to all members of our staff including members of our substitute teacher list. Their second shot will be on March 26th and we will have distance learning on that day. By having this event on a Friday, it allows our staff to overcome any reactions to the vaccine without disruption of instruction.
The recent winter weather added to our challenges as our buildings were never designed to endure the bitter cold we saw. This produced numerous frozen pipes. The Junior High was hit the hardest as a frozen pipe burst flooding a portion of the cafeteria causing a complete failure of the heating system. Our maintenance staff put in countless hours during this storm to protect our buildings from the elements while cleaning up the damage.
We are making plans to have a prom and graduation as well as some other traditional events that were greatly altered or completely cancelled last year. While it is likely those events will have some modifications, we are hopeful we can begin to resume some sense of normalcy. Please remember to thank our staff for their work to keep us open as we have battled COVID, ice storms, snow storms and record cold weather.
They are truly heroes!