The importance of that role is heightened as we plan and prepare for a return to school after months of closure due to the pandemic. While we responded to the closures quickly in providing continuity through digital learning, we have always believed that instruction in the classroom is the optimal learning environment for most of our military-connected students. Restoring teaching and learning to the familiar environments of our classrooms, provides students with stability and continuity. Face-to-face instruction and the routines of school add significantly to success and growth for all students.
Education is a critical quality of life component for military families and communities. We recognize that DoDEA school operations impact on the readiness of our military partners to complete their mission. As a support function, it is imperative that we get students back to school as soon as soon it is safe to do so. We are currently engaged in comprehensive research and in-depth planning toward that end. We are approaching this work thoughtfully. I have provided the following parameters to our planners and the commands we serve.
We are looking at a number of additional topics, including: daily screening and protocols should a student or employee present as sick; social distancing and sanitation; addressing the learning gaps of students; transportation; school lunches; student services; staffing, scheduling and vulnerable populations; student activities and athletics; and protocols if a resurgence were to occur in any of our communities. Additional details are still in development and I will provide details on our opening plans by mid-July 2020.
We expect you will have questions and our local school administrators: Principals, Community Superintendents and Superintendents will be prepared to receive your input and provide detailed answers to any concerns you may have on this year's opening. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.
As we return to school, the support and involvement of parents will be critical to our success. We recognize that parents are the first teachers of students. Their help in establishing routines and expectations at home that reinforce and extend learning are valued and appreciated. Families also play a vital role in maintaining safety in our schools and classrooms. Good hygiene practices learned at home make our schools healthier and safer. As we return in the fall, ensuring that students are healthy enough to come to school will be an important and daily consideration. Every parent needs to ensure that students who are ill must stay home and, when necessary, seek medical attention. Students and adults have an obligation to respect and comply with the heath protection provisions in place for our classrooms, cafeterias, school buses and athletic fields. We will also need your understanding as we limit visitors to school while social distancing is in effect.
When we return, we must also address the emotional and psychological needs of those who may have been adversely affected. We can’t underestimate the impact of that anxiety and fear have had on the part of some students and adults. We will offer appropriate support and intervention to meet those needs. Teachers, with the support of our counselors, psychologists, and school nurses, are valuable resources positioned to provide early and ongoing assistance for students.
It is natural for all of us to yearn for a return “to the way it was” before the coronavirus and before the closure of our schools to students. Unfortunately, all of us face a “new normal” in the wake of a continuing global health crisis. I am confident that the advanced planning, preparation, cooperation and collaboration between our school and community leaders will facilitate the safe return to school, and to a new sense of normalcy in the days and weeks ahead.
Any decisions will reflect our mission, priorities and the core values of our school system. Any actions will be guided by a strong focus on hygiene and prevention. We will strive to earn your trust and confidence. I welcome your support as we work together to safely insure academic achievement for your children.