COLUMNS

Eagle Eye on Education: New Albany community will play critical role for 2020-21 school year

MICHAEL L. SAWYERS
The New Albany community's response to COVID-19 coronavirus health and safety protocols will play an important role in the New Albany-Plain Local School District's 2020-21 academic year, according to Superintendent Michael Sawyers.
Michael L. Sawyers

The African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," remains at the forefront of educating the children of our community during the 2020-21 school year.

The New Albany-Plain Local School District recognizes a child's education is a responsibility shared by parents, families, schools and the community. Creating positive, home, school and community partnerships is essential to carrying out the shared responsibility necessary to meet the academic and developmental needs of our students.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic reinforces the daily need to adjust and adapt in order to produce positive outcomes that benefit our entire learning community.

The 2020-21 school year, officially beginning for students Sept. 8, will include 5,064 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Presently, based on choices by parents and guardians, 3,537 students are expected to attend school "in person" and 1,527 students will attend school full-time online for at least the first semester.

Regardless of the delivery model elected by families, all 5,064 students are enrolled in the New Albany-Plain Local School District, and we look forward to proudly serving them during the new school year.

Students attending online, approximately 30% of our total enrollment, will actively participate in synchronous or asynchronous learning provided or facilitated by our teachers via New Albany-Plain Local or SchoolsPLP curriculum and assessments in our virtual-learning program. The VLP program will challenge students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do to fulfill the same curriculum standards required for all Albany-Plain Local students. The VLP will have structured school-day expectations combined with flexibility to best meet the needs of each student and their family.

Students attending in person, approximately 70% of our total enrollment, will begin the new school year in a hybrid attendance model representing two assigned student groups equaling approximately 50% of the total in-person population.

A short period of a hybrid attendance pattern to begin the school year will allow students and staff members to build skills and practice required health and safety protocols to transition to all-in or remote attendance patterns when determined necessary for the safety of students and staff members based upon changing health conditions.

Given the academic and social emotional needs of students, we are committed to creating a safe and healthy environment for students and staff members who attend school in person.

This unprecedented health crisis creates daily challenges for our entire community.

Through kindness, patience, communication, flexibility and support, we endeavor to maintain a healthy balance of high academic expectations and student/family/community well-being.

We are accountable to ensuring that students will be able to learn and grow to progress forward in each subject area and grade-level, regardless if students are learning in person or online.

Our ability to keep students safe while learning at school or home is dependent on our entire community. It truly "takes a village to raise a child," and we need our entire community now. I implore residents to join us in our public request and challenge to "Mask Up, Back Up and Wash Up."

Our ability to keep our schools open to honor parents' choices for learning models available for the 2020-21 school year depends on our collective responsibility to adhere to required health and safety protocols traveling to and from school, in our classrooms and hallways, on and off the fields or courts of play and throughout our school campus and greater community.

For the safety and welfare of our students, staff, families and community alike, I urge you to do your part every day. We are stronger together, and our students, regardless of physical location, need us now.

"It takes a village to raise a child," and fortunately for our school district, we have an incredible community to help our school do so every day.

Michael L. Sawyers is superintendent of the New-Albany Plain Local School District.