The pandemic – What’s the plan?
Sugar Valley Rural Charter School
(Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of articles as The Express asks superintendents of area school districts how they are dealing with closure of the schools due to the pandemic and what’s planned for the remainder of the school year.)
By CHRIS MORELLI
LOGANTON — Schools throughout the state are going to be closed at least until April 30. The closure has affected schools in every corner of the state.
At Sugar Valley Rural Charter School, Chief Executive Officer Tracie Kennedy is dealing with the closure as best she can. She knows there are plenty of challenges that lie ahead, but she also knows that the SVRCS community is a resilient one. She recently took some time to discuss a myriad of topics — from online learning to the potential loss of spring events.
Because SVRCS offices are currently closed, the following interview was conducted via email and edited for length.
THE EXPRESS: What is your reaction to the closure being extended?
KENNEDY: I am disappointed that we cannot attend school. My thoughts are always on our students and their families. I wonder how everyone is coping with life while we are experiencing quarantine during these unprecedented times.
THE EXPRESS: What is the short-term plan moving forward?
KENNEDY: After gathering data from our technology survey, SVRCS is providing Enrichment and Review activities to our students. Because we cannot provide equal access to all students, these activities are completely optional for the students to complete. These activities will not be collected or assessed in any way. We are ensuring that SVRCS remains in compliance by approaching learning with a good faith effort to ensure FAPE.
THE EXPRESS: How realistic is online learning — especially considering the lack of internet in some areas, lack of equipment, etc.?
KENNEDY: Our students do not all have the same access to technology therefore the presented activities will be offered online or materials will be mailed to the students. All teachers are available to assist students with their work through Google Classroom or by phone.
THE EXPRESS: How hard has this been on administrators, teachers, students, etc.?
KENNEDY: Everyone at SVRCS misses the students and we worry about them. It breaks our hearts to not be able to see the smiling faces of our kiddos walking through our hallways every day. We have daily discussions about them and how we can meet their needs. The way education is now being delivered to our students is a new approach for many. This is a learning process for all involved.
With the uncertainty of tomorrow, we are all doing our best to make this uncomfortable event a positive learning experience. Students, parents, and staff continue to have open lines of communication. I believe everyone feels the need to have the daily structure and normalcy back into their lives. Until that time, we will continue to educate our students on many platforms.
THE EXPRESS: How hard has this been for you personally?
KENNEDY: Overall, I miss seeing the students, their families, my staff, and the friends from our community. My day is definitely different. The one thing that has not changed is my dedication to educating the students of SVRCS. I still remain focused on what it is that I can do as SVRCS employs an educational plan that attempts to accommodate every student. I also worry that families are now under added life-stressors that are not the norm. Many are juggling working from home, caring for children and elders, dealing with the loss of wages while doing their best at staying healthy while encouraging the educational component of enrichment and review activities.
THE EXPRESS: Is there a plan in place for big spring events (proms, commencement, etc.)? KENNEDY: We have no plans at this time. We are waiting and are hopeful that we will get back to school.
THE EXPRESS: How do you think the community has stepped up in light of current events?
KENNEDY: I know there are people in the community who have made a difference by providing meals for others, transporting groceries and medicine for others, making and donating masks, and just offering to listen. This is a lonely time for those who are struggling emotionally with the stress of being quarantined.
THE EXPRESS: What is your advice for students and families who are upset/confused about the closure?
KENNEDY: My advice to students and families is to reach out to any of us at SVRCS. We are here to offer advice and support to our families. I would ask them to stay connected with us by viewing the SVRCS website, SVRCS Facebook page, Classroom Dojo, and Google classrooms. Our Facebook page is very active. We have been posting videos of the staff and teachers as they read stories. We have also sent challenges out to our families to encourage them to interact with us.
THE EXPRESS: If you could send one message to the SVRCS community, what would it be?
KENNEDY: The message I would convey to the SVCRS community would be to value this time with their loved ones. I would encourage them to follow the advice of the health professionals and stay calm. We will get through this together.