News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Facing a challenging school year — together

This is going to be a challenging school year in an unprecedented environment. Each school is creating a “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” plan that will deliver on the social, emotional and educational needs of our students while also honoring the needs of all the members of our educational community.

These plans can minimize and mitigate risk, but there is no risk-free option.

As with any undertaking in the district, our success relies on the support of the whole community. A robust plan is important, but the plan’s ultimate success will be determined by how much the community embraces the plan and how well we work together.

I am proud to serve on our school board. However, I submit this letter only as a member of our community and as a parent. It is a request of the community to come together — as you have in the past — and help the district rise to the challenge ahead.

First, please engage in the planning process.

Second, assume positive intent. Every member of our community wants the best for our students. Someone’s health needs, limits, concerns, fears, or reactions may be different from yours. Try to remember they’re trying to do what they think is best even when you disagree with their actions.

Third, be curious. If you don’t know what you’d like to know, seek answers from the source. In a perfect world, the district would communicate everything to everyone in a timely fashion with 100 percent clarity and 0 percent ambiguity. This goal is seldom met. Asking questions of the source helps spread truth.

Fourth, tolerate with a smile. Safety processes and protocols will be inconvenient, unpleasant, and some may feel unnecessary. Let’s debate the efficacy of such protocols in the after-action-review while setting a proud example of compliance in the meantime. Even small individual sacrifices can have large positive impacts on our community.

Finally, stay connected. My unofficial polling of parents across the state leads me to believe our teachers responded very admirably to the unplanned shift to distance learning. They strived to keep a deep personal connection with each student — the foundation for any real learning — through the computer screen. Even in the best-case plans for the coming year, there will be some safety requirements that interfere with the normal connections that build our fabric. We’ll have to identify those gaps and work to close them.

I believe each building will create the best possible plan they can in light of the circumstances. Sisters is by no means alone in facing this challenge; however, Sisters will find success if we embrace these plans and work together.


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