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I am absolutely sure there is no way I can give thanks and share my appreciation for everyone who deserves a shout out during this unprecedented and trying time, but I am going to try. Please forgive me if you are overlooked.
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in February here in the U.S.A. as public educators we starting discussing the possibility of shutting school down and teaching via on-line. Here in Box Elder School District (BESD) we started having discussions just in case that happened. With each passing day during late February and then into very early March the reality was becoming closer with each passing day. Our Information Technology (IT) staff started doing inventory of devices that could be sent home with students. We started discussing platforms for delivery of content. We had plans in place for how we would train our trainers to go out and teach our teachers how they would perform this ever so unique task of delivering on-line content to their students. All of a sudden Ruby Gobert was diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus and in my opinion things got real in a hurry. Then on Friday March 13th we were told to tune into a live broadcast of Governor Hebert and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson. On that broadcast we were told that starting on Monday March 16th all schools in Utah were to go into a “Soft Closure”. With this new state mandate we had to really bump our plans. The state gave school districts time Monday and Tuesday March 16 & 17 to get trained and prepare for on-line content delivery starting on Wednesday March 18. On Monday, March 16th, our (IT) Department worked with our Building Level Technicians, our instructional coaches, our building administrators, and our educational technology coaches to have a BESD wide model of how we were going to train the teachers in their buildings the next day on Tuesday March 17th. A huge shout out to this group of people that were just mentioned to be able to pull this off. Then the next day, March 17th these trainers went back to their buildings and in one day trained everyone how to use Canvas as the Learning Management System (LMS). Then on Wednesday March 18th BESD started delivering academic content on-line. Ever since then we are learning on the fly and I believe getting better day by day. Our teachers have been outstanding in their efforts to learn how to deliver their content online and they deserve a huge shout out.
What is a “Soft Closure”? Well that was a question that had to be clarified and re-clarified. A “Soft Closure” means schools are no longer open for students to attend. Employees were supposed to not gather in groups of more than 10 people at a time and we are supposed to follow the six foot social distancing guidelines. At BESD we have some teachers who come in to the schools to use their technology to teach on-line and some can stay at home to teach on-line. We have asked our teachers to be available from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. each day while taking 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon off so students can get their lunch and breakfast.
We are still required to provide meals for students. For the first two weeks of the “Soft Closure” we used our bus drivers to deliver meals to the regular bus stops. We have had multiple comments on how awesome that was. However, after evaluating the people power and effort it was taking to deliver a breakfast in the morning and then a lunch around 11:30 it was overwhelming. So after spring break it was determined to follow more of a summer meal distribution plan where certain schools prepare and have meals ready. The one change is that in the 11:00 a.m. to the 12:00 noon time a child age 0-18 can come to any school and get their lunch for that day and their breakfast for the next day for free. Right now is where I have to give a huge shout out to our food service personnel and our bus drivers. They really have stepped up and done an outstanding job and continue to do so. With each passing day since spring break we have gotten better at knowing how many meals to prepare. Thanks food service and bus drivers you are heroes.
For the remaining Educational Support Professionals (ESP) there has been a wonderful effort put forth. Our secretaries have had to be the informational lifeline for many parents and they have been at their schools providing information and keeping things going. All of our para-professional aides have taken on the role of calling and checking in on kids and making sure they are being reached, plus they are filling in to help food service and a variety of other jobs. Our custodians are doing a yeoman’s job of keeping things as sanitary as possible to fight the virus. Our facilities staff are working on projects that usually have to wait until summer. Can I just give huge thank you and shout to all of our ESP folks. Thanks you.
Our Board of Education deserves a shout out. Just last night we held BESD’s first ever virtual Board Meeting. We did have two Board Members at the Board room along with some of our district administrative staff. We had a fairly short meeting only about 50 minutes long but we were able to keep the business of the school district rolling forward. Just an FYI I am predicting that we will have to do a virtual Board Meeting on May 13th at 6:30. The public is welcome to join in and watch. All they have to do is go to our BESD.net webpage that day and it will give you directions on how to get online and watch the meeting. It also will allow parents and patrons the opportunity to give public comment at the appropriate time through a chat room. So if you are interested please log on May 13th. The BESD Board of Education was scheduled for a Public Hearing at the April 8th Board meeting for the possibility of combining Foothill and Mountain View Elementary schools into a new school building. We will postpone that Public Hearing and Board vote on that issue until we can have a live Board Meeting. That is yet to be determined when that can happen.
As I started this document I said I would unintentionally miss some people and I truly am sorry if I didn’t specifically single out your particular position. I am grateful for all of our employees and how everyone is rallying and trying their best to make this a great situation. We are continuing to hire people to fill openings in both ESP and teaching positions so a lot of the regular school work is going forward.
Lastly and probably most important is I need to give a shout out to parents and the students at home trying to find a way to making Learning for All still occur. Nationwide I know this has put an undue and new burden upon families. We know this is hard and we have a firm belief that once we get back in regular school form we, as the professionals, can evaluate what learning has occurred and what we need to do to intervene and fill holes in learning to get all students back on track. Years after Hurricane Katrina the New Orleans public education system shared that with the blip of education that occurred because of that disaster they still had students who were able to go to college and become doctors and lawyers and all different kind of professionals. I know we can get them caught back up. But please do the best you can so they won’t get too far behind. But sincerely thank you for your efforts. I know it is tough.
Thank you Box Elder County and Box Elder School District for being Box Elder Strong through this entire event. I have been uplifted by the many acts of kindness and all of the ideas people have come up with oh how to show compassion to students and people in need. We need to get through this crisis together and come out at the end even better than we were before.
Box Elder Strong
Box Elder School District