Welcome back, Clarkston Community Schools families!
The start of a new school year brings countless “firsts” for students.
Certainly, in 2020, this list of firsts includes many unexpected new ways of doing things. As I look around, this world looks very different from the world we lived in a year ago, or even a few months ago. But time has not stood still. Important life moments and firsts are happening all around us.
This past Tuesday, 568 kindergarteners and Young Fives students began their academic careers with Clarkston Community Schools, and 616 members of the Class of 2021 started their senior year – their last first day of school.
Life milestones like these are no less important in a pandemic, and they deserve to be celebrated.
Early on, I committed to recognizing and celebrating these moments in our students’ lives, because we have the power to set the tone for the way our students will remember this time.
This will be a different year for all of us and we can look at it as a year of fear, loss, and forced change or we can look at it as a year to learn some new tricks, a year to celebrate life moments and milestones, and a year where we show the rest of our state and country how it’s done in Clarkston. WE GET TO DECIDE and choose our attitude and how we face adversity. In short, give grace, not grief.
When I recommended that we start the school year in a distance learning format in Clarkston, it was done with great thought and reflection. My emphasis was on the well-being and safety of our staff and students, the many unknowns we faced, the drive for continuity for keeping school open when we did go, and my knowledge of the professional excellence of our Clarkston staff.
To make this an educational experience that our district can be proud of, Clarkston educators have spent the past two weeks immersed in professional learning.
Recognizing that all learning is founded in relationships, we have made meaningful connections with students the cornerstone of our efforts.
I know many of you are wondering what’s next for Clarkston Schools and when we can expect to return to face-to-face learning.
This is a goal and critical focus for me and our schools. I am working in cooperation with the county epidemiologists and other infectious disease experts at the Oakland County Health Department.
As a collective team, we will be monitoring elements of safety, adherences of protocols, infection rates both in our community and region, and the ability to conduct school without major disruptions due to quarantine or contact tracing efforts.
We do not want to open our door just have to shut them days later as is happening in some other Michigan schools this past week.
I am looking at the successes and struggles of schools in Michigan that are back in session face-to-face. In working with public health experts, if the data supports that precautions are working on minimizing individuals getting sick in the school setting, if we have a stable and low level of virus activity locally, and if evidence suggests that we could operate with a minimum level of disruption to school, I will make the recommendation that we return to in person learning. It will monitor on a weekly basis at least through the beginning of October to establish a week-by-week improvement trend that would support a recommendation to make the jump to in person. I understand that there are no 100% guarantees in this process.
I will simply do my best by each and every one of our students, staff, families, and our community.
Together, WE GET TO DECIDE what we will make of the 2020-2021 school year. WE GET TO DECIDE what we choose to take away from this experience.
The burden of these times is too much for any one of us to carry alone but we can shoulder it together.
Students and parents…YOU GOT THIS!
Together, we will do amazing things.
Together, we are unstoppable.
For more information about Clarkston Community Schools’ Fall 2020 learning plans, visit www.clarkston.k12.mi.us/Fall2020.
— Dr. Shawn Ryan