As superintendents of your local school districts, we are writing to express our gratitude and praise for the employees who have held the front line in education during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Our steadfast focus has been keeping students and staff safe and healthy. This fall, we fully adapted to a distance learning framework to effectively engage all students while also planning to return students to in-person learning as soon as the state-mandated metrics allow.
In the last nine months, your school districts have converted from brick and mortar in-person learning to a full comprehensive distance model. To do this, they have made certain that every student has a technology device in their hands to access their education. This means technicians and school staff have set up and distributed thousands of iPads, Chromebooks, and similar technology, including hot spots to assist with internet access.
Teachers, counselors, special education specialists, education assistants, office staff, bus drivers, custodians, IT techs, nutrition service workers, principals, and staff from every role in our districts are dedicating themselves to student well-being, often well-beyond their normal work responsibilities. They experience sleepless nights worrying about those children who they know most benefit from attending school and interacting with their peers and nurturing adults. They are constantly focused on improving service, providing additional supports, and strengthening lesson plans that both connect students to their learning and to each other.
Weeks and months of planning time have been invested to create learning model options for families to choose from as we continue to plan for a return to in-person instruction. Teachers have spent hundreds of hours learning for themselves and then teaching students and families how to use the learning platforms. Other school leaders have written emails, recorded messages, held forums, and partnered with community agencies to keep — not only families — but our larger communities up to date on the efforts of schools and the progress of our students.
Though we have not yet met the metrics to begin hybrid learning, many of our schools and teachers have been able to provide limited in-person instruction for small groups of students through exceptions in the OHA and ODE guidance. This is a step in the right direction.
In Albany, we continue to serve meals to all children in our communities at meal sites and on bus routes, and our bus drivers have shifted from their role to greeting students at noon while handing out lunches. Education assistants spearheaded a social hour for students where they may meet with friends with common interests in virtual meeting rooms. Students are joining together in Lego rooms, reading rooms, game rooms that are overseen by staff but designed solely for relationships among students. Welcome Center staff support our Spanish-speaking families to ensure they are connected with our school community.
In Corvallis, we have provided free meals for children at eight locations in Corvallis and Philomath since the onset of the pandemic. Thanks to STA, our transportation provider, and Dial-A-Bus of Benton County, students receive doorstep deliveries of everything from materials from art teachers to supplies for high school cooking class. The district also has developed a system of support for families in need of food and hygiene supplies to assist with basic needs for those who have been most negatively impacted by the pandemic.
We are proud of the exemplary work that our teachers and staff have performed over the last nine months. Under the most difficult of circumstances, they have consistently put the needs of students ahead of their own and are doing their best to serve and support our families.
Melissa Goff is the superintendent of Greater Albany Public Schools. Ryan Noss is the superintendent of the Corvallis School District.