Yesterday our governor signed an executive order that closes school for in-person instruction effective November 23, 2020. Many of you have asked if there is any recourse, but the recent Supreme Court decision places an executive order, during an emergency, in the same category as a state law. Therefore, we will follow all of the requirements spelled out in the order.
With that being said, we must admit that we are saddened by the decision. We have worked hard to successfully plan and implement new schedules, supports, interventions, etc, that have shown to be successful. Our staff has spent countless hours developing a consistent and effective approach to school during a pandemic. Unfortunately, the governor’s order did not differentiate for successful implementation. However, we are not blinded by the weight of his position. We do not have access to everything at his disposal, but that does not stave off conversations with grieving parents who are watching their children under-perform or battle depression from the fear and isolation of the current situation.
With the executive order in place, we have turned our attention to making the last seventeen days of this semester as successful and meaningful as possible for each of our students. Each school is creating detailed plans and will share those with you tomorrow. We wish we could provide more details in today’s communication, but we are still finalizing plans based on the specific guidance of the order. However, we feel confident that we will have everything finalized prior to the end of school tomorrow.
Thanks for your support and continued patience.
Dr. Mike S. Stacy
Beechwood Independent Schools
COVID Response Update
Dear Beechwood Families:
Several people have asked for an update so I’ll do my best to provide updated information since things continue to evolve daily.
- As of today, I’m holding to an A/B hybrid schedule. We have seen a spike, but it has eased over the last four or five days and if nothing changes, our rolling average will continue to decline.
- The vast majority of our cases are linked to social activities. We do have three cases where the families report no social activities outside of school. However, our contact tracing cannot locate the source.
- As of today, we’ve seen 29 cases since September 1. The majority of them are adults and the vast majority come from social contact in an enclosed environment. We have zero cases of outdoor transmissions. I’m not saying that COVID can’t be spread outdoors; I’m only relaying data from our contact tracing outcomes.
- We have added many different supports for academic issues and family needs. If there is anything that you need help with or your child needs help with, please let us know!
- We are updating the metrics on the dashboard. We think our levels were too generous and we’ve been able to receive more feedback from multiple sources to improve our leveled decision matrix.
- It’s good to remember that we are testing on site for any symptomatic student/staff. This increases our numbers, but we think this is what we need to do for proper and current data.
- We do plan on returning K-3 to full capacity in the near future.
I sincerely appreciate everyone’s positive attitude. The feedback we have received has definitely changed since our last communication and that is very much appreciated. I know this has been a difficult stretch and school not being at full capacity has directly affected many of your lives, professionally and personally. We will continue to do our best to keep school in session and move forward in a slow and consistent manner.
Dr. Mike S. Stacy
Beechwood Independent Schools
Yesterday, the governor informed us through a video conference that Kenton County, along with 67 other counties, was red on the state dashboard and advised us to move to virtual instruction (NTI). From a big picture point of view, I have no problem with this decision. However, from a Fort Mitchell point of view, I cannot agree. Here are my reasons:
- Since we started tracking data in September, we’ve had 6 confirmed student cases, K-12.
- We have seen an uptick over the last ten days in adult cases and quarantines. Currently 59 staff or students are quarantined, but all of these cases are tied to social or family activities (and one athletic event).
- We have zero confirmed spread inside the building.
- Our students and staff are all following safety protocol. They’ve done an amazing job! We run the largest gathering in Fort Mitchell, every day from 7:45AM until 8PM, and we’ve only had 6 student cases.
- We have evidence of academic decline over this seven-month stretch, especially with three groups (EL, Students with special circumstances and some of our primary students). Therefore, we will try to keep the students in the building as long as possible.
In order to make it to winter break, we need your help. Social activities have been a problem over the past few weeks. Many of our quarantines are tied to adult positive cases. Part of my job is to watch trends and make projections and all of my data says that as social activities move indoors, with zero safety protocols, we will have problems at school regardless of what we do. Our biggest issue will be keeping school staffed due to adult quarantines. Can you imagine what would happen if everyone did what schools are doing? Please think about distancing anytime you are around a group.
At the October 12th board of education meeting, we made the decision to bring primary back fulltime and I stand by that decision. However, the decision to stay hybrid already defies the governor’s recommendation and has caused some nervousness with our parents and staff. Therefore, I am willing to delay the recommendation until we are out of the red zone as a county. At that time, we will return to fulltime K-3 with the following changes:
- We will hire a new staff member for primary.
- This will allow rooms to have an average of 20 students per room.
These changes will allow of primary students to achieve approximately 5ft social distancing and not be in an “in again, out again” situation due to county color changes. If the students stay in their rotational groups, a small amount of students would have to be quarantined if anyone tested positive. These actions will allow our K-3 students to return to a fulltime schedule, since it is almost identical to what is happening now in our current schedule. If we don’t make these changes, then it will be very difficult to have a fulltime schedule with the new 15 minute cumulative quarantine requirements.
We’ve added testing and created our own data metric to keep away from being dependent on the state dashboard. If an outbreak happens in Covington, should Fort Mitchell shut down because the county is red? If most of our cases, are tied to social events should we move to virtual where more of our kids have more social time? Should 5ft and masks cause us to make different decisions than 6ft and masks? Should I sit back and not make these decisions when I’m seeing a decline in academic outcomes? Each of you can ask yourselves these questions and come up with your own answers. We welcome your disagreement, your dialogue, and your concerns, however, the negative and attacking emails are not positive nor do they influence any decision. If we can’t work together, to keep our kids in school in October, I have no doubt that we will be closed in January and February. I feel very confident in saying that October will be easy compared to the winter months. I’m committed to making the difficult decisions now that will result in an opportunity to do what’s right for our students in the winter months.
As always, the board of education can move in any direction they see fit. However, they have detailed information and provide their input on every one of our decisions. I also have nine strong administrators who have the opportunity to weigh in on each decision, well before it is made. We review data, speak to healthcare professionals, visit other schools and school systems, talk to superintendents in other states and other countries, before making any decision. We have also successfully implemented countless safety protocols, in a matter of months and have successful results. Yet social media and emails act as if we roll dice for outcomes (on both sides of the agenda). To be blunt, if we have any shot of making it through this as a school and a community, we are going to have to work together. I can handle the complaining, name-calling, and insults, but they are not productive nor do they help our staff make the decisions to implement a proper learning environment. The staff at Beechwood are great people and they are all doing everything in their power to make this the best and safest place for your child. They impress me daily.
We will all make the needed changes and update everyone of a new start date for primary. I hope that we will be out of the red soon and we can move forward as planned.
Dr. Mike S. Stacy
Beechwood Independent Schools
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