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Superintendent finds that the first day of school is one of her favorite days of the year

UPLOADED BY: PITZ, RAY - Heather Cordie, Sherwood Gazette - Opinion Summer will bring a chance for residents to tour new high school, other 'transformations' buildings A year of school changes and challenges recalled There is always a particular feeling of transition that happens near the beginning of a new school year. Students and families begin planning for the daily routine of school attendance, and staff are thoughtfully preparing buildings, lesson plans, menus, bus routes, technology devices — just to name a few of the many pieces of the puzzle that must be put into place for a successful academic year.

In my many years serving as the superintendent of the Sherwood School District, I have always looked forward to the start of a new school year with eagerness; in fact, the first day of school has always been one of my favorite days of the year. Yet as we prepare for the 2021-22 school year, I am mindful of the new level of appreciation that I feel in thinking about welcoming our district's students back into our buildings, an appreciation I will never take for granted following one of the hardest periods of time many of us have ever — and perhaps will ever — face.

There is no denying the intensity of challenges that all of us have faced since March 2020. One night, our Sherwood Board of Directors was approving our district's first-ever plans for investing the new Student Investment Account (SIA) funds. The very next morning, we unexpectedly began the process of closing our schools.

Weeks turned into months, and comprehensive distance learning shifted from being a short-term solution to being a long-term need. Our students worked harder than ever before to engage in learning through the limitations of technology devices, and families became educators and partners in their student's learning as it moved into the home environment. Teachers quickly became experts at teaching in ways for which they hadn't been trained, and instructional staff learned how to provide support to classrooms within the digital arena.

Our support staff worked diligently to solve problems they never expected to encounter — from creating drive-through supply and textbook pickups, to providing meals to students who were not in the buildings, to following new guidance for the cleaning and sanitation of our buildings. In addition to all of this was the long-awaited completion of our new high school and transformations buildings — and the way that our team overcame what seemed like the impossible task of packing multiple school buildings during the era of physical distancing and working from home.

And then in spring 2021 came yet another new challenge —reopening our schools and bringing students back into our classrooms, where they belong.

Looking back at all that has happened in our district — and the amazing resilience of the students, staff, and families through it all — only adds to the appreciation that I feel as we move towards the beginning of the coming school year. While there are still impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic we are facing, and we still continue to experience changes in guidance that will shape the year ahead, the reality of reopening all six of our schools for full-time, daily in-person instruction is something to be grateful for. The opportunities ahead of our district this year as we continue to invest our SIA funds in staff and programs that will serve the academic, social-emotional, and mental health needs of our students is something to be grateful for. The return of our preschool options, the next class of our Dual Language Immersion program, the availability of career/technical and STEM courses for our secondary students -- these are all things to be grateful for.

The 2021-22 school year will have its share of obstacles to face, and problems to solve – not the least of which is the delicate balancing act of finding ways to provide our students with as much normalcy in their learning environment as possible, while protecting those students – as well as staff and families alike -- from the ongoing risks associated with COVID-19. This balancing act is fraught with difficult decisions and ongoing uncertainty. Despite this, I know there is one value across our district, and the Sherwood community, that we all share – our unified commitment to provide our students with schools that tend to not only their academic needs, but their overall wellbeing. With all that we have already overcome, I believe whole-heartedly that each of us, no matter our role, will continue to strive to meet that commitment -- and for that, I am exceptionally grateful.


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