The 2019 – 2020 school year will be memorable, not because of the closing of schools; it will be memorable because of how our school community pulled together to support our students and families.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” The last few months have certainly challenged us, but as Dr. King stated, it is during these times that we learn what we are truly capable of.
As schools and businesses closed, the Newport News Public Schools staff stepped up, while dealing with their own family circumstances.
Across our city, teachers at all levels worked to ensure that students were engaged in at-home learning with packets, experiments, online instruction and virtual class meetings. Our academic coaches, school counselors, interventionists, instructional assistants and supervisors worked tirelessly to develop at-home learning, online curriculum and instructional videos.
Our school social workers, psychologists and student assistance counselors continued to make sure that our students received the social/emotional support they needed to thrive. Additionally, employees in child nutrition, transportation, technology and security actively supported our students and families affected by the school closure. At locations throughout Newport News, this dedicated staff distributed meals-to-go and instructional packets to families. Initially, six serving locations were opened, but the effort expanded to 26 sites, including mobile service using our school buses, which provided meals for about 5,000 students each weekday.
Our technology staff focused their efforts on ensuring that our middle and high school students had the resources they needed to access online teaching and learning. Thanks to their efforts, more than 2,100 laptop computers and 700 Wi-Fi hotspots were distributed to students without access to technology at home to support learning.
Essential business operations also continued during the closure of schools, thanks to the commitment of our professional office staff, central office staff, support staff and our school leadership teams. They quickly learned to navigate the new normal and, in doing so, were able to continue to serve our students and their families.
I was most impressed by the resiliency of our students who quickly adapted from in-person, classroom learning to at-home and virtual learning. Through instructional packets and online programs and tools, our students and their families showed all of us what dedication and perseverance truly mean. And, as for the Class of 2020, they certainly demonstrated to us that despite the challenges presented during their senior year, they are champions. They have shown us the attributes of successful learners and what it really means to graduate college, career and citizen-ready.
All that we have accomplished together humbles me. Thank you for a great school year.