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The end of an unusual school year and a look ahead

We have come to the end of a very unusual school year. No one could have ever imagined what this school year was going to turn into at the beginning of the year. It sometimes is amazing to think back to March 1. Everyone was getting excited for high school basketball districts to start. Hockey teams were playing for a trip downstate and students were wishing for Spring Break at the end of the month. Less than two weeks later, schools were shut down, sports were called off in the middle of their tournaments and we were all trying understand how bad the COVID virus might be. Would we be back in school? If not, what would be the plan?

As we all know now, face-to-face instruction never returned and high school sports were left unfinished. On the other hand, schools did not just fold up shop either. The first things schools did was to make sure they kept feeding students. The schools did a great job at this. Every week, we saw the number of students/families taking advantage of the school lunch programs rise. Many schools reported that they served more students than ever expected, so we all knew the need was there. I want to thank 31 Backpacks and the Western UP Food Bank for helping to supply additional food and hygiene supplies for our families. This was a great asset to our students and to our community as a whole.

Once we knew that school was not going to return to face-to-face instruction, schools created learning plans for all their students. Schools used hybrid models of on-line and paper packets to reach all their students. This was not an easy task, but as teachers became more adept, more opportunities arose. It was very evident that teachers missed their students and students missed their teachers. Teachers were creating videos for their students and creating interesting projects. There were video chats, phone calls and letters being sent out. Schools worked hard to keep connections with students.

The Copper Country ISD focused their efforts on helping schools pool resources to reach all students. The Supporting Kids through Radio project was one of those projects. We received very positive feedback from families who tuned in every weekday to listen to a children’s story. Roughly 40 local educators from across our local schools took part in the project. The CCISD also created a webpage of resources for local educators and families. The CCISD’s Mental Health professionals continued to meet with students virtually who needed their support. Through this all, learning continued throughout the Copper Country.

So, what will school look like next school year? As I write this, the answer is not known. The Governor has created a “Return to Learn” Commission. This is made up of 25 individuals in education and the health fields from across Michigan. The Michigan Department of Education also created three subgroups–urban, suburban and rural–to look at the challenges of returning to school. The Department of Human Services (DHS) and a few other state agencies will also will also have some input into how schools will reopen. All of these groups will work together to create a plan for how the state will reopen schools. The Copper Country ISD will be ready to assist our local schools with whatever process comes our way.

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