Superintendent's E-update 5/14/2020

Superintendent's E-update 5/14/2020
Posted on 05/14/2020
eupdate logoThursday, May 14, 2020

Dear Robbinsdale Area Schools Families and Staff,

I am so proud of how our staff, parents, families and students have risen to the challenges of these current times. Our students have used their voices to ensure their feelings and perspectives (and those of their peers) are heard. Students have also been integral partners in planning end-of-year celebrations through their feedback and collaboration. As such, I am excited to introduce this week's student guest writers.

Amari Townsend, senior at Cooper High School
"My personal experience with distance learning has both ups and downs. The negative experiences which affect the Class of 2020 are the memories (which could have been made) being cut short, including prom and graduation. Also, it has been a process adapting to full distance learning, which has truly impacted us all. Distance learning has been a new thing we must overcome. It may be hard for students with 'hands-on' learning styles, but the way we engage in distance learning can always be improved and adapted to better suit those learning styles.

Although these unfortunate circumstances happened, they can make the Class of 2020 stronger, making us push through and overcome obstacles we face in life. This has taught us to become more responsible and more aware of what is going on around us. This has also taught us not to take things for granted, such as going to the movies or just hanging out with friends. Finally, this has taught us to be thankful for what we have."

Sophia Vento, senior at Armstrong High School
"Did I think that on Tuesday, September 3rd, my senior year would be cut short by a global pandemic? Perhaps, a natural disaster would cause a long-term transition to distance learning, but a pandemic? A pandemic that shuts down much of the world for months on end. A pandemic that kills thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of people across the globe - no way. On the first day of school - the first day of my last year of high school - I could never have fathomed that in six months' time I would be at home, attending Google Meets, watching pre-recorded lectures, and only interacting with my friends over text or Snapchat (or standing outside on my driveway, six feet apart, of course).

Distance learning isn't a permanent fix for in-person instruction; it is an unfortunate alternative in a time of crisis. It is what we need to do as a society, as a community, and as a school district to not only protect ourselves, but every person in the state of Minnesota, the United States, and the world.

I miss my friends, my peers, my teachers, my professors. I miss walking through crowded hallways, sitting in abnormally cold classrooms, and driving to school. I miss the normalcy of waking up in the morning and having a place to go.

Distance learning is feasible, not easy or ideal, but doable. I would much rather be back in the classrooms at Armstrong High School and the University of Minnesota, spending the last few months of my high school career learning face-to-face with my teachers and friends. I come from a place with resources, though. I have access to a therapist, a stable Internet connection, and friends and family that are ready to help out. There are many community members, and students in our district, who are seriously struggling due to the state-wide shift to distance learning. Some students are in unsafe situations at home or are struggling with mental health issues amid this time of extreme isolation. Thankfully, teachers at Armstrong and professors at the U, in my case, have been understanding; they are struggling with this transition, too.

If anything can be noted, it is that we are all struggling. In different ways and on varying scales, every student in this district is struggling with distance learning. School is certainly important, but, right now, it is not what is most important. Every aspect of our lives have changed. We can't leave our homes, and we see people around us losing their jobs. We see people dying from an unfamiliar disease at extremely high rates.

I am not known for my optimism, and have been preparing for news that school would remain online since March, but it is unfortunate that my last day of school at Armstrong High School was Thursday, March 12th. My last day of classes at Armstrong High School and the University of Minnesota will now be online, at home, by myself. Not with my friends and peers I have known since kindergarten; not with the teachers that I have learned and grown from; but at home, at my desk-online."

I would like to thank our student guest writers for sharing their perspectives (in this safe space) with our community. It is important for us to listen to the voices of our students as we are guided by Goal 4 of our Unified District Vision. Their words inspire us on our march toward human decency as we work to ignite the potential in all students. I encourage you to continue to care for each other while we navigate through these uncharted waters together and collectively overcome the challenges of this moment.

Together, we are 281!


Carlton D. Jenkins, Ph.D.
Robbinsdale Area Schools