Taking a moment for reflection

Guest Editorial:

Taking a moment for reflectionBy DR. DAVID OSTASH, Supervisor

Sierra Sands Unified School District

As a lifelong public educator, I have always believed that schools serve as a “hub of the community.” We are an asset for all in the community – there is something for everyone. From academics to sports, from fine arts to career technical education, we all have a connection to our schools. When we experience triumphs and tribulations, we are all affected.

We all recall the July 4 and 5 6.4 and 7.1 quakes. Richmond Elementary School and Gateway Elementary School were the hardest hit, and so we rallied to open those schools in August 2019, only one week late. As always, so many employees, community members and businesses pooled their resources and generously contributed effort and supplies to lift us up during the challenge.

We were just beginning to recover from the physical and emotional toll from the earthquakes, I would say healing, when the coronavirus pandemic swept across the nation and shuttered all public schools in the state in March.

Here we are, now in May. This is what has happened in the last six weeks:

• March 17. First day of school closures for students and staff

• March 23. Distribution of instructional packets and Chromebooks to transitional kindergarten through 8th grade students. Distribution of WIFI devices to students in need. Implementation of distance learning for high school students.

• April 13 – Full implementation of distance learning for all students in the district.

• May 8 – Publication of plans for graduations and promotions.

• May 27-29 – Honora and uplifting for our students who are being promoted and are graduating.

Of the 1,000 public school districts in California, Sierra Sands is in the upper half in size, technically described by the state as a medium-sized school district. I proudly describe our district as being “big enough to offer most big-city services, yet small enough to have a small-district culture.” We have 600 employees, half teachers (certificated staff) and the other half professional support staff (classified staff). All tirelessly deliver the promises of public education.

The Sierra Sands team is an incredible force to be acknowledged and appreciated. Within days of our schools being shuttered by the pandemic, hundreds of dedicated Sierra Sands professionals pivoted from teaching students in classrooms to teaching and reaching them through virtual classrooms — at the same time becoming teachers and tutors to their own children at home. Tremendous efforts have yielded a “continuity of learning” that ensures students will make progress and be ready for next year.

I am extremely sensitive to those who are struggling during this time. The stress and impact on our economy, and the local challenges our small-business owners are enduring,should concern all of us. Without a strong economy and a vibrant business environment there are no, or diminished, benevolent public services such as schools. Within that recognition, I promise our community that instructional innovation and lessons learned right now will carry forward into our new normal. We have truly “moved the needle” on instructional technology, and we are already developing strategies to carry that forward in new and innovative ways long into the future. Stay tuned for more information…

“Our campuses are temporarily closed, but we are still open for learning!”

Story First Published: 2020-05-15