Over the last seven months, we have worked to support our families, community, and children; however, we are aware that everyone is impacted differently by our plans. Through it all, our goal has been to get as many students back to school while maintaining a safe environment. At our last board of education meeting, I informed the members that we would move forward with a phased reentry to school.
The first phase will be full-time reentry for our primary grades (K-3), starting on Nov. 4, 2020. There are several reasons for this decision:
- The loss of academic instructional time for our youngest students is a developmental concern.
- Schools who have returned to full-time have not seen major issues in primary grades.
- Our primary students are with the same group of students all day. Therefore, contact tracing and quarantines are not as extensive.
- Young children are at a lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (CDC).
- We will continue to offer a virtual platform for those who are not comfortable sending their child full-time.
It is important to communicate that we will not be able to achieve 6 ft social distancing in K-3, therefore quarantines will happen if someone tests positive. We will have cleaning and safety protocols in place but they will not prevent a quarantine if we have a student test positive. Therefore, the decision to return does have some consequences that are not present in our current hybrid schedule. However, the reasons stated above led us to move forward with Phase I.
Many of our stakeholders have asked why we are not returning to 100% capacity K-12. There are several reasons:
- Our facility needs have become glaringly apparent during this pandemic. We do not have the physical space to return K-12 and meet all local and state guidelines. We have one library, one cafeteria, two gyms, and no auditorium or general space for all of our students.
- We have spent a large amount of money to implement a health clinic, hired new staff for a five-day option supervision, plans for a K-12 tutoring program, individualized instruction for many of our at-risk population to be able to return on a hybrid schedule. Unfortunately, no amount of money can fix the lack of space (at least during this current timeline).
- The current quarantine requirements and the 4-12 environment with class changes has a much greater impact due to contact tracing.
- The doctors we consult with support a phased-in approach as well.
Our team is constantly striving to make student-centered decisions and reevaluate what’s truly best in a difficult situation with many individual circumstances. We are willing to work with any family or any student if they have a specific need. Please contact your school’s administrators or counselors if you or your children have any individual concerns.
Thank you for your continued patience.
Dr. Mike S. Stacy
September 24, 2020
It seems odd to say this at the end of September, but for many of you, welcome back to in-person school! The year 2020 has had many ups and downs and twists and turns, and for the first time in my career, I’ve had trouble writing this type of communication. It should be the easiest time ever. I mean, we’ve just been through a health crisis and our kids and staff have done an amazing job adapting to the circumstances, so all I need to do is brag on everyone and it would be a wrap. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen the beginning of a long financial recession, rioting, protests, and cries of oppression in our streets. It is difficult to fully express my emotions, about school, because I am still processing everything that is happening as a person, professional, dad, friend, and mentor. Nevertheless, here’s what I know:
1. Beechwood has a long history. It has survived world wars, Spanish Flu, Great Depression, polio, and many other historical tragedies, and it will survive our current set of hardships.
2. Our vision is to make school safe and happy place for every student regardless of his or her economic or ethnic background or his or her sexual orientations. Every child should feel valued and have the opportunity to achieve economic independence as an adult. Our hope is that our students learn to value our differences and as leaders grow to understand that compassion is a better approach than hate.
3. Education is a community’s economic driver. Our state needs schools to get back in session. Our students need schools to get back in session. While, I fully supported ending school in a virtual format, it is not a long-term option for most students or our state’s educational system. I am pleased that our Board decided to move forward with Level 2 Hybrid Model. This will give our students the in-person time many of them need and require.
4. Our focus on resiliency has never been more important. On March 13th, most of us entered into some type of isolation. As we have started to emerge for those isolated environments, I’ve seen more anger, depression, and frustration than I’ve ever seen before. Isolation and fear combined with financial problems are not a good recipe for our emotional state of mind. We have made social emotional health a focus over the last several years and this will only increase as we transition back to school in the fall.
5. We have a lot of great people (staff, students, families, board of ed.) that work hard every day to make Beechwood a quality institution and an educational leader in our region and state. Our community values the school and our school values our community. That makes for a great school environment.
6. I know that it will take all of us to get through the next 18 months. Our finances are going to be tight due to the loss of revenue due to COVID-19. Beechwood Schools will not be spared from this situation. We have already been told to expect a cut in 20-21 and 21-22. We will also receive much less state aid due to the federal decision to allocate it based on Title 1 funds (unlike 2008 and 2009). I encourage us all to lean into this problem and embrace the challenge of what needs to be done. If we do, we will emerge in a better standing than when it all began because most systems will hit the pause button.
7. I am very proud of all of the students and staff at our school. Many students missed a lot, but I have also seen some amazing moments as well. I am super proud of each and every one of them.
My ask is that we all reflect on how we can be a more supportive and compassionate member of the Beechwood School community. Some of our greatest learning and advancements happen when we listen to people whom passionately disagree with or spend time with people from different backgrounds/cultures. I am trying harder to listen and learn from others. If COVID-19 has taught me anything, it has taught me that the world can change overnight; and when it does, people need love and compassion more than they need answers or guidance.
I hope everyone has a great school year and Go Tigers!
The Importance of Equity & Access
After 20 years in administration, I’m finally starting to understand how time helps individuals become the best possible versions of themselves. The years make us older but also wiser. I can no longer do some things that came more easily in my youth. I can’t run, jump, throw or compete physically like I did 30 years ago. I now tend to lean on my experiences rather than my physical abilities or raw emotion, and these professional and life experiences are comprised of my own wins and losses as well as the successes and shortcomings of all the leaders that I’ve observed throughout my life thus far.
When we were planning the EDGE program at Beechwood, we all brought unique experiences and perspectives to the table. My two requests were that the program must (a) have equity and access as well as (b) social/emotional growth opportunities for our students.
Experience has taught me that we can always have programs for select students, but the only way to achieve maximum change is to design a program accessible to every student.
And if we have a program that raises test scores, but increases student anxiety…or improves college entrance metrics, but hurts a kid’s self-esteem, is it really a value-add for the school or the student? The value of the EDGE program is that every student is immersed in developing skills deemed important by businesses, industry leaders and post-secondary institutions: Being resilient...thinking critically...understanding quality research...embracing team diversity. These are the skills that employers and universities are looking for and they are as important as SAT or ACT scores or even a student’s GPA. At Beechwood, we call them our core concepts. And they will be developed in each and every Beechwood student, from preschool through 12th grade, as critical pillars of the EDGE program.
The other issue, which continues to weigh on my mind, is the increasing need for social and emotional support for our students. I have no idea how we got to such a dire place, but the fact remains that we are seeing more and more students who need assistance in handling stress and personal feelings. As an educator, I see this as one of our most important tasks as foundational members of our local communities. Our children are stressed about school and their futures. They are dealing with family circumstances that are weighing heavy on them. Their social environments are more complex than ever before due to social media and the sharing of content virtually. I absolutely can’t imagine my entire childhood being captured on video (by friend and foe). So how do we foster our students’ social and emotional growth? Like most schools, we have implemented a national curriculum, but it is not enough. We all think that building a more resilient kid is a key to success, both in the classroom and in life. This skill is not innate to our kids. You aren’t born resilient. You aren’t born a risk taker. You aren’t born to seek out the silver lining in every situation. Actually, your natural survival instinct is to do the opposite. It is much easier to be negative and blame others or even run from a tough academic challenge. But we believe resilience is a skill - and an important one - that can be developed during a student’s academic journey on Beechwood Road.
Schools must work to help shape a child that is better-served to grow up in the modern age where work isn’t guaranteed as it was for the generations before, where negativity reigns on social media from accounts that don’t even list the correct name of the person making the claims. Our responsibility to parents is not as simple as teaching math and reading.
Our responsibility is to help build a student that can lead in the coming decades. One that can shift with the trends and can adapt to any environment. A child who can be a value-add to a community or organization, but can easily relocate and learn a new community’s culture and be equally as valuable without the support of their hometown. And finally, a person who depends on themselves for the evaluation of their work and self-worth, not the number of likes or shares of their Instagram post.
The true power of the EDGE program is not academic performance; it is the development and growth of a well-rounded person. Maybe it will help speed up the process so our students can become the best possible versions of themselves at a much faster rate than I did.
Dr. Mike S. Stacy