So How Do We Move Forward in Our Planning?
The close of this school year has been like nothing else we have ever experienced before in education. This summer will also be like nothing else we have experienced as each of us prepares for the opening of school in September. These preparations need to address three main scenarios. They include fully reopening for students and staff, a hybrid model of opening where some students and staff are in and some are on remote learning, and fully remote for students and staff. As we develop these options, it becomes evident that the school year will not be as straightforward as these options sound. Next school year will be more complex and challenging than we can plan for at this time. We will need to be flexible and adapt to the situation on that day, for that hour, or in that minute.
So how do we move forward in our planning?
First, we should not plan in a bubble. Each of us has a planning committee or a group of planning committees within our school district. This is what should be going on right now. But we also need perspective and communication. We need to engage our colleagues across the state and country to have deeper conversations about what is happening in other districts, what their issues are, and what solutions school districts are developing. Stakeholder committees are outstanding ways to develop the plan, but having perspective on what is being done elsewhere will help with the process.
Secondly, read the plans and recommendations coming out from states and health organizations across the country. More information and recommendations are being published daily. Read them to help find solutions to your problems. But more importantly, read them for commonality. Find the consistent recommendations found in various publications and see how those might work for your school district.
Third, be a vocal advocate for what information and resources you and your school district need. This is where NJASA, county groups of superintendents, and individual superintendents have raised their voice to address what we need to create a safe and healthy learning environment for our students and staff for September. Our association and you are the voices that need to be heard now and until the pandemic ends by those who are making the recommendations.
Finally, as we work through the most challenging summer we have faced in education, be aware of you. Over the last four months, you have taken care of others, made the tough decisions, and worried about the health and safety of those in your charge. Take care of yourself. Take breaks when needed. Get some rest so you will be ready for the coming school year. Your own physical and mental health are as important as those who work and learn in your district. So be sure to take care of you, and agree to support each other during this time.
We all know the work ahead will be tough. Keep advocating. Keep speaking up. Keep asking questions. Keep making the tough decisions others have yet to make. You’ve done an outstanding job since March and I know you will continue through the summer. When the doors open in our schools in September (for real or virtually) our school districts will be ready thanks to the work and planning of many, and your efforts.
Scott R. Rocco, Ed.D.
2019-2020 NJASA President