Cordie: School district still here for you despite closure
Since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the state of Oregon, the reality of our daily lives has shifted immensely. The last several weeks — moving now towards months — have felt surreal and disorienting, as people everywhere are responding to the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
All of us have been impacted in some way by these changes. Some families are facing the challenge of balancing work with having children at home, others facing the hardship of being without work as businesses have closed or laid off employees — and some continue to work on the front lines, including healthcare providers, first responders, and other essential workers that we all owe so much to during these times.
As a school district, the announcement on April 8 that all Oregon schools would close for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year came as a devastating loss, yet also serves as an opportunity for educators to rethink what it means to truly serve our students, families, and community. The challenges our district faces as a result of the closure are many — and indeed, are the same as those that most K-12 districts are facing across our nation.
The need to provide students with learning opportunities that can be accessed from their homes has been the catalyst for the creation and launch of our distance learning plan. Here in the Sherwood School District, this effort has been led by a task force comprised of administrators and teachers, at all levels, who have worked tirelessly since before spring break, to develop a comprehensive approach — one that connects teachers to their students, works to ensure technology access for all students and families, and will help our seniors to cross the finish line and graduate.
Another challenge is to ensure that our most vulnerable students are supported during this time. While academic support is always a focus for educators, we know that our students have many other needs that a school environment provides — including healthy meals, resources for social-emotional and mental health, and relationships with both peers and school staff.
Since the beginning of the closure, our Nutrition Services staff have provided daily meals to students at no cost, distributed at "grab and go" hubs at Hopkins and Edy Ridge elementary schools. Our SHARE Center has remained open, connecting students and families with resources and supplies. Our staff have been connecting with students and families in a variety of ways, including emails and videos, and continue to explore creative ways to help students feel connected.
Additionally, a second task force focused on supporting the social-emotional and mental health needs of students has been working to ensure that students in need of additional support can be identified and quickly connected to a school counselor or other resources.
While we continue to work hard to address these — and other — challenges, there are also so many bright spots that continue to inspire and uplift all of us in the Sherwood School District. From the many kind and supportive emails to our administrators and staff, to the outpouring of donation offers, to the multitude of thoughtful acts happening across the district, the way that the community has come together to support our students, our schools, and each other is a truly incredible thing.
Our school district is proud to serve the students and families of Sherwood, and to be a part of a community that proves how strong we are together, even in the most challenging of times.
Heather Cordie is superintendent of the Sherwood School District.
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