Since March 2020, students, staff, and families have been navigating a new way to deliver instruction to our preK-12 students. We have experienced moving to distance learning on a short timeline, hybrid instruction with specific students attending more or less days per week based on need, and most recently distance learning for K-12 while we worked through a series of high case rate weeks in the pandemic. There is no question that the best place for most students to learn is at school, and the return to hybrid instruction this week is a step towards having more students on site as the winter and spring progresses.

We also know that distance learning works for some of our students, and that continues to be a choice families have for their students. Waseca Public Schools, while we recognize the continuous need for improvement and growth, works incredibly hard to serve students in whichever model they participate in. In addition to this progress, our hybrid instruction is evolving as well. This week some class adjustments were made at Hartley Elementary to increase time with licensed teachers for all students. The Junior and Senior High is increasing the amount of synchronous learning students will have available as well as continuing to welcome more students into the building. And Waseca Intermediate School is also working to move to a model with students on site four days a week. All of these changes are a testament to the continuous improvement mindset of our leaders and staff.

Turning the calendar to a new year can give us all a chance to reflect on the experiences we have had over the past 12 months and our personal accomplishments as well. Although it would be inaccurate to dismiss the struggles and anxieties of 2020 and the first few weeks of 2021, it also would be inaccurate not to mention the learning opportunities our different last several months of school have provided. Students have gained independence, ownership of their learning, and advocacy skills for when things need to be addressed. Families also have learned to communicate with teachers and staff through alternative formats and in many cases, contacts between teachers and families have increased during this time. Teachers and families have been able to partner in situations to determine the priorities students need to focus on in order to best support their learning. And overall, teachers have navigated a different way of delivering instruction, building relationships, and communicating with each other and families.

This list could go on and on, but as we move into 2021 the focus now is to reflect and appreciate these gains, and then think about how they can support our students and staff as we get back into hybrid learning and then increase the time students are in school. We need to be deliberate in ensuring our communication remains strong, that students maintain the independence and ownership of their work, and that we don’t take relationships for granted now that we are back together in the classroom in a hybrid style. By taking advantage of the new skills we have learned in the last year, students can continue to engage in their learning in whatever format the virus requires us to work under and have a successful second half of the 2020-21 school year.

Eric Hudspith is the superintendent of Waseca Public Schools

Load comments