There are many things to discuss and update you on as we round up our first, six weeks of school here at Medina ISD.
It is hard not to express my opinion in this position because there are so many controversial subjects we are dealing with in the school system at the present time. I will do my best to stick to the facts we are dealing with, but as a veteran in the world of education, some of my beliefs may spill over, and I will apologize for that in advance.
First of all, I must explain what it feels like to be in public education during a pandemic. It feels much like being caught on the battlefield between two opposing groups who have equally credible beliefs that they are fighting for.
We are stuck in the middle continuing to follow the rules. There are those who believe it is dangerous and that we are doing a disservice to teachers and students alike in our return to instruction and have put everyone at risk.
I, for one, have not seen any data or witnessed anything since we have been open that supports those theories. It is and always has been my belief that school is one of the safest environments for a child, and I believe this holds true in a pandemic as well.
Our school plan has implemented masks, social distancing, sneeze guards for all students, daily temperature checks, sanitation stations at every entry to our school and of course advanced cleaning techniques that require hours each day but guarantee we are a clean, safe and healthy environment for teachers and students alike.
Now the other side of the pendulum swings towards those who believe the masks and other safety requirements infringe on civil liberties, and I am not going to argue with that or even take a side as far as that goes.
However, I will tell you if the district has it in policy and the University Interscholastic League has implemented it statewide for all UIL sponsored activities, we will continue to enforce it. It seems like a small price to pay for the opportunity of being allowed to watch your kid participate and be present while those once-in-a-lifetime memories are actually taking place.
Administrators are constantly spread thin at school related events incorporating these guidelines with rowdy fans who want to mess it up for the entire group.
I do have an opinion on this – put your face covering on and come yell and cheer your kid on in whatever they choose to participate in!
I am sorry. I told you I was sorry before I got to this point.
So you see it is a lot like being in the middle of the battlefield and not on either side but more focused on just following the rules and doing what you believe is best for the kids and the professionals that work hard to educate them each day.
As educators, we may feel like we are caught in the crossfire, but if we are still educating kids it is a win-win situation for our students!
Another touchy subject is remote learning versus face-to-face instruction. It was easy for the Texas Education Agency to implement remote learning, and many welcomed it 100%.
The struggle with the remote learners is exactly what every teacher would have told TEA if the agency would have asked them in the first place. It will work for a select few who are extremely disciplined and have a parent that is standing over them and making sure they are logged in during lessons or are on pace with any asynchronous or synchronous learning plans.
The facts are, however, many of those remote learners are home alone while parents may be at a job or just not able to sit right there with their child during the school day. This is what is so wonderful about face-to-face interaction between the teacher and student. Teachers will push a student, praise a student and hold him or her accountable on getting their lesson completed in a timely manner.
I must remind you, these are still kids, and role models such as teachers can’t be replaced by computers and prepared lessons.
I have always believed that the scariest part of the pandemic for our students was not the virus alone but also the gaps in the education system they may never get back again. There is no doubt that last spring when we were sent home that our students were the biggest losers when it comes to education.
Many schools across the state are abandoning their remote learning opportunities as many of the kids are not passing even though those students may have been straight A students in face-to-face instruction prior to the pandemic.
As for Medina ISD, we are extremely proud of all of the hard work our teachers and staff have done to keep the education wheel rolling. We are proud of our safety protocols and how diligent we have been enforcing them and the good bill of health we have maintained thus far.
We are still at zero cases as we roll into our final six weeks of this first semester.
As you think about your frustration in our world as we know it in 2020, try to be thankful we are still able to educate our kids and that you have a school that is working hard to keep them safe and healthy through such challenging times.
Send a note, an email or even an in-person thank-you to the ones who make it all happen – the teachers, administrators and staff.
Also consider the fact that schools are stuck in the middle of a battle we never asked for. I will tell you it has not been easy, but it has been a wonderful first six weeks, and I am so proud of our students, teachers and staff.
Kevin W. Newsom is the superintendent of the Medina Independent School District. He can be reached online at kevin. firstname.lastname@example.org.