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OPINION: Sherwood School District families and staff will make this a special year despite the difficulties.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Heather CordieThe start of the 2020-21 school year is only a day away.

Our building staff and administrators are working diligently to prepare to launch this school year in a distance learning model, and families are preparing for a school year unlike any other.

Construction teams are completing their final checks of our Transformations schools, bringing to a close a summer full of work that has been several years in the making.

Our Transportation and Nutrition Services departments are working together to plan meal distribution to students throughout the district, and our Technology department is working to ensure that all families have access to the technology needed for their students to engage in learning remotely.

Since the passage of the 2016 capital improvement bond, we have known that fall of 2020 would be the glorious finish line for our largest projects — the opening of the new high school and our Transformation schools. We planned for staff and students to start the year in new, beautiful buildings; for our senior class of 2021 to enter the new Sherwood High School as the first class that will graduate from that campus; for our two previous middle school communities to finally come together as a single, unified school.

Yet while we planned for this to be a time of great change, nothing could have prepared us for how drastically unique this school year would look. We had no idea of the challenges that would be superimposed over all of our lives this year — both personal and professional — by way of a global pandemic. Lives lost, jobs lost, and the disruption to regular routines due to quarantine, business closures, and — hitting close to home for all of us — the closure of K-12 schools last spring.

Since mid-March, "school" as we have known it has been upended, and we all — families, students, staff, administrators — have been adjusting to this change.

This has not been an easy task — indeed, it has required levels of resilience, patience, grace, and strength that many of us would not have known we were capable of at the start of this year. Yet over the last several months, so many have risen to the occasion — from students engaging in learning in new ways, to parents taking on the challenge of directing their children's learning, to staff and administrators bringing innovative solutions and ideas into our district.

I have seen the community come together to support our students, families and staff members. I have seen educators work harder than ever before, all in the interest of serving their students.

Times like these can bring out either the worst or the very best in all of us — and I am thankful for the instances of the "very best" that I have seen during the last several months, over and over again.

There is no doubt that the 2020-21 school year will continue to challenge our schools and our district in ways we have never experienced. The work ahead of us is multi-layered; it is a balancing act of meeting the academic and social-emotional needs of our students, keeping students and staff safe during a pandemic, continuing to adapt and evolve our delivery of distance learning, and aligning to the ever-changing requirements and guidance placed on all K-12 schools — it is undeniably daunting to all of us. Additionally, our district is committed to evolving in our ability to make learning accessible and equitable to all of our students — and in light of the civil rights movement currently happening around our nation, we know this work is more important than ever.

Yet no matter the challenges we will undoubtedly face in the year ahead, I know that we will move forward. We will learn new lessons, find new solutions, and do all that we can to support each other through the unknowns and uncertainties we may face. We will find a new normal, working together to ensure that the focus remains on the needs of our students. We will look forward to a time when our students can return to their school buildings, when familiar routines will return, and when life will begin to feel more predictable again.

Most importantly, as we face these challenges together, I know we will do our very best and will all strive to be our very best — all the while, extending grace, patience and kindness to all with whom we come into contact.

Heather Cordie is superintendent of the Sherwood School District.


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