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Traditionally held in March, the important celebration will be held May 3-7 to honor SSD employees

 CORDIEEach year in the Sherwood School District, we celebrate all staff groups throughout the district in a single week, known as Staff Appreciation Week. While this week is typically held in March, this year's focus on reopening our school buildings for hybrid in-person instruction over the last several weeks lead us to reschedule this important celebration, which will now be held May 3-7, 2021.

What will make this year's celebration especially exciting is that it is the first time in two years we have had an opportunity to honor our hard-working staff members. Last year's Staff Appreciation Week was originally scheduled to begin on March 16, 2020 -- a date that, as most of you may remember, was the beginning of the state-wide school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When we first closed our schools that week, none of us could have anticipated the immeasurable impact that the pandemic would have on all of our lives -- or how long we would be away from our students, our schools and each other.

Once it became clear that our school closures would continue long-term, our staff found

themselves in a world that no one could have ever expected — a world where suddenly we all had to adapt to be able to learn, work, and connect from our homes, virtually, in ways that were new and strange to most of us. Thanks to the 2016 Capital Improvement Bond approved by the Sherwood community, our district had the benefit of having already purchased technology devices for every student — an unexpected advantage that provided the opportunity to react more quickly to the new reality of distance learning. Suddenly, our staff who have long excelled at serving our students in-person found themselves in quickly changing roles — roles that would require them to think outside the box, learn new technology overnight, solve seemingly impossible problems, and innovate like never before.

As the closures continued, the staff of our district worked tirelessly throughout the spring and summer to address the obstacles created by the conditions of the pandemic. For example, our nutrition services department created a new model of meal distribution for students and their families, providing outdoor hubs for meal pickups, as well as partnering with our transportation department to provide meal delivery to those families on our rural routes — delivering more than 3,800 meals per week at their busiest times. Our school teams developed drive-thru systems for distributing textbooks, tech devices and supplies, and our teaching staff created new ways to maximize the application of technology platforms in the online learning environment.

At the beginning of the fall of 2020, we faced yet another challenge we could not have

anticipated — the significant wildfires in our region that created unsafe air conditions throughout our community, and for some of our staff, threatened the safety of their homes.

After months of perfecting the delivery of support systems using our outdoor facilities, we found ourselves once again scrambling to address unexpected obstacles. While I have long known the staff of our district to be dedicated and generous educators, I was moved by the many efforts I saw across the district during the wildfires to solve problems — the day that a number of staff dropped what they were doing to assist the high school in clearing the line of cars at their campus for student textbook pickup before conditions worsened; the technology and transportation staff that quickly organized a route to deliver technology devices around town on the weekend before school started — just to name a few examples!

Throughout last fall and winter, our staff's focus on providing distance education to our

students remained parallel to our constant focus forward — planning for the eventual transition to a hybrid learning model, at each of our levels. We watched as local case counts spiked in late fall, rising to levels previously unimaginable, and evaluated each new update in state guidance to determine our next steps.

We planned for the introduction of Limited In-Person Instruction, a component of the guidance that would provide us with opportunities to tend to the unmet needs of our most vulnerable students. And on Dec. 23, we listened as it was announced that a shift was coming — a shift in state case metrics that would be the first step in the path forward to bringing our students back to hybrid in-person instruction.

Since January 2021, the pace of our work behind the scenes has been non-stop —including the creation of detailed reopening plans that tend to social distancing, pick-up and drop-off logistics, student transportation needs, and complex schedules at the secondary level — with staff doing all they can to provide consistency to students and families during the transition back into our buildings.

All of this was partnered with a commitment to continue to provide a quality distance learning experience to those students remaining in the "Cloud Campus" model through the remainder of this school year. All of this work has paid off, with students returning to buildings and our schools offering more in-person instructional hours than many other districts in our region — including being one of the only regional districts offering elementary school five days per week!

Seeing our students entering our schools each day over the last several weeks brings many of us here in the Sherwood School District a renewed sense of hope for the future of our district. For the first time in a long time, we can begin to once again be proactive, looking ahead and thinking about the possibilities for the 2021-22 school year —preparing for students to be attending school in-person, every day, full-time in all of our schools, and exploring ways to offer a "Cloud Campus" option for families who believe it is the best fit for their student(s).

I am beyond proud of the staff of this district and what they have accomplished in the face of the challenges of the last year. This year's Staff Appreciation Week is a true celebration of all that this team of educators and professionals have accomplished together over the last year.

We are better for all that we have learned and created during this challenging time, and

stronger for all that we have overcome. I invite the students, families, and members of the Sherwood community to join me in celebrating our dedicated staff members during this important week.


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