SUPERINTENDENT’S Report ELLSWORTH – School districts around Wisconsin entered into this school year with many decisions to make about operations related to COVID while also attempting to make …
ELLSWORTH – School districts around Wisconsin entered into this school year with many decisions to make about operations related to COVID while also attempting to make quality choices about how to address the increased educational and mental health of students as they returned to this school year.___ Each district was required by the federal government and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to develop a “Safe Return to School Plan” to communicate how individual districts would put COVID-related protocols in place. Topics such as masking requirements, close contact protocols, in-person and distance learning opportunities, increased cleaning practices and other specific issues related to COVID had to be tackled by school administration and school boards._ In many communities, these issues have led to conflict as decisions were finalized and often revisited. _ COVID related protocols in schools are obviously highly controversial. In fact, in over 30 years in education, I have not seen any one topic cause more upheaval in school district operations around the state or conflict within communities. Discussions of masking and other protocols simply have little ability to lead to compromise or consensus within communities. Along with this, districts neighboring one another have very different systems in place which can often lead to confusion from the general public about how and why these differences exist._ As we started our school year, we put our systems in place. We chose to offer fully in-person instruction while making face coverings optional. _To this date, we have been able to keep our schools open for all. It has not always been smooth as we have seen ups and downs in COVID cases within our school population. _ Along with this, we have also faced the same labor and supply chain shortages that many employers face today._Still, we are fully operational and our staff is doing a wonderful job of serving families each day.
I know that COVID related topics in our schools are, and must be, a part of the ongoing conversation about how to best serve students. At the same time, I also know that they cannot dominate our daily lives as we attempt to best serve students. They are all too often hiding the innovative work that is being done by school professionals to address learning gaps and improve the overall school experience for families. Topics such as family engagement, Professional Learning Community Practices, data driven decision-making, intervention services, and quality teaching practices are what we talk about in our schools daily._ These conversations need to be the true focus of our schools.
It is my hope that as we move ahead in the coming months the full focus of our schools and communities can once again return to these types of conversations about quality educational practices. They are what will truly move us ahead as a school system and community. _
BY ELLSWORTH SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT BARRY CAIN