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Parents, Guardians & Staff,
As we enter our second day of remote learning, I am already hearing many positive stories of how our teachers and students are adapting to this new way of doing school. One teacher mentioned how smiles were contagious, as she could not help but smile, then the student smiled, then the family members in the background smiled. She said it was heartwarming to see her kids again, which is something I am sure many are experiencing. This is our business: being in front of kids; so it is nice to get back to a sense of normalcy in that regard.
After watching my video message to the students, leave it to a smart and creative HCMS student to challenge me, by sending in the picture below. While I appreciate her sense of humor, I replied, “Sorry, I’m not buying it…. Get back to work.”
A student at Westlake HS also emailed me, stating that while he “really enjoyed his first day online,” he wondered, “how long will we be in this remote learning, as remote learning isn’t conducive to baseball practice?” The honest answer is, we don’t know for sure. There is a lot of uncertainty right now regarding what the status/situation will be in the coming weeks.
Several area districts have announced extended closures or even closing schools for the rest of the school year. The decision to reopen schools depends on several factors including guidance from the county and state. While we will follow Travis County’s direction and stay at home, for the time being, we will continue to run our food distribution for eligible families and provide technology support for students and staff.
Right now, teachers are teaching; instructional staff are supporting teachers and students; the business office is coordinating payroll and processing payments and bills; human resources is hiring and answering staff members’ questions; technology is troubleshooting student and staff device and connectivity issues; child nutrition is providing meals to eligible families; and, yes, we have enrolled new students who are moving into the area this week. It is an amazing coordination we are virtually accomplishing, and I could not be more proud.
Rather than trying to quickly react to announcements from surrounding counties and/or City of Austin with varying extension dates on “shelter in place” orders, we plan to continue remote operations and will not put an exact date on when we will reopen or when an announcement will be made to reopen. That said, we will open, in coordination with other school districts and Travis County, and as soon as it is safe for staff, students and the entire community…. We just do not know when that will be. We make the commitment to provide the community with sufficient notice prior to reopening our schools.
Finally, some are asking if we do not open before the end of the school year, what will happen for high school seniors and graduation? We are not there yet. However, to be prepared, I am asking our staff who normally coordinate graduation to explore all options. Seniors will graduate on time, and all students (except in individual circumstances) will be promoted to the next grade.
All of this teamwork takes patience and adaptability. We have never done this before, but we are pioneering through it with focus and flexibility, strength and compassion.
Enjoy your weekend, stay healthy and we will see you Monday for our official first full week of remote learning!
Dr. Tom Leonard
Superintendent of Schools