Superintendents E-update 4/24/2020

Superintendent's E-update 4/24/2020
Posted on 04/24/2020
eupdate logoDear Robbinsdale Area Schools Families and Staff,

Together, we are 281!

Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed evidence of this powerful statement in both big and small ways. Our staff are working hard in this 'new normal' to ensure all needs are being met, and we extend our gratitude and appreciation. Our amazing educators are working to deliver high-quality, equitable instruction in new and innovative ways. Our dedicated nutrition services staff have served more than 150,000 meals since mid-March. Our diligent buildings & grounds and custodial staff continue to ensure our buildings are safe and clean.

All of these efforts put our children and families first. In these unprecedented times, we should focus on human needs first, and instructional content second. We understand the impact the pandemic has had on our families and we appreciate all of the hard work you do every day to support our students. As such, feedback from our students, staff and families continues to guide our efforts as we refine our distance learning practices. Therefore, as part of our new normal, I am inviting guest writers from our district community to share their experiences.

I am excited to introduce our first guest writer, Liz Freeman, one of our district's elementary parents, who comments on how COVID-19 and distance learning has impacted her family. Mrs. Freeman holds a Masters in Public Health, and is a public health evaluator.

"We have it much easier than most families, as I do not have to work during school time. My children love watching the videos of their teachers and will do some of the activities, but they will not do others without a power struggle. While this is consistent with one child's 'in class' persona, I have been floored by my other child's resistance to completing some of the assigned tasks. Some of this resistance is grief about missing 'normal' school life, and not being around peers who are doing the same work at the same time.

It has been hard for me, as a type A overachiever, for my child to have dozens of assignments (cumulative since we started) that have not been completed. We are doing what we can, and, in this time of upheaval, one of my biggest challenges is being okay with work I would consider unacceptable during 'normal' times. Since we are not in normal times, just continuing to show up for our kids and doing the best that we can is amazing, even if we have a 'bazillion' undone assignments.

My favorite message came in some materials from my son's teacher: 'Please remember that they are children before students.' Hearing teachers acknowledge we are doing our best is a huge relief. I value the work my kids' educators are doing, and we're sticking with this, on our own terms.

My children are also learning other things during this time. Our family is prioritizing helping our greater community. My husband (a mechanical engineer) is printing face shields for healthcare workers; I assemble the shields, order supplies and deliver our donations to healthcare systems. Our first shield went to a district parent who works at a facility that now has confirmed COVID-19 cases (they didn't when we gave it to her). We are also donating to North Memorial. Last week, someone reached out to me asking for face shields for a Ramsey County hospital unit, which only had two shields for 200 nurses. I spent two hours putting together 21 shields, and they were picked up the same day. Although this project took some attention away from my children's schooling, it was worth the time for our family. My kids know we are donating the personal protective equipment (PPE), and why. This is what they will remember about this time.

As I have shifted my expectations for my kids, our family's life has become more peaceful. No longer am I forcing them to spend one excruciating hour on a task which should take 10 minutes. I am giving myself grace, and hope teachers, parents, students or community members who are struggling will also give themselves grace during this tough time."

Thank you to Mrs. Freeman for sharing one of the many 'new normal' heartfelt stories being experienced by our students and families during this unprecedented time. Her words provide evidence of the resilience (and concern for others) which is obvious throughout our district and community. To assist you with any social-emotional or mental health needs, please contact your school as they can connect you with the appropriate resources. For additional support, contact Student Services at 763-504-8082.

The characteristics of resilience and concern for others are especially present in our Graduating Class of 2020. We have watched these tenacious Seniors grow into amazing young adults as they discovered their infinite potential within the bounds of our schools and beyond. However, we could not have imagined or envisioned such an unprecedented end to their Senior year, as many of the milestones and traditional celebrations we treasure have been disrupted. The Class of 2020 worked so hard academically and socially to live out dreams commonly shared by their families and community prior to their birth. Nevertheless, although difficult, this experience will serve as the foundation for how they lead in this 'new normal' and beyond.

We look forward to celebrating our Seniors in new ways as the end of the school year nears, and are proud of the efforts already taking place to commemorate the Class of 2020. In partnership with our building principals, we have been planning for safe alternative graduation ceremonies, and will share more details as plans are finalized in the coming days.

We continue to be inspired by our Class of 2020. Together, we are 281!


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