School Messenger Update

Posted by Staunton City Schools on 4/15/2020

Good Afternoon,

I hope everyone is doing well given the circumstances and figuring out ways to make the most of this extra time at home. I’m optimistic that we will get through this uncertain time and come out stronger on the other side.  Although our state of affairs remains very much in flux, I wanted to share with you the six main takeaways from my weekly statewide superintendent conference call and our SCS leadership team meeting this morning:

  1. Instruction: Thanks to our dedicated teachers and administrators, our continuity-of-learning plans have taken shape and are up and running.
    • For preschoolers: Our teachers have created learning packets for each child, are sending weekly newsletters to families, and having virtual family team meetings.
    • For elementary schoolers: All elementary school teachers have collaborated to provide common daily plans for students at all three elementary schools. This includes a routine for students and families with math word problems, number sense practice, daily read-alouds, reading responses, written responses and word work. Those plans are posted on each school’s website every Sunday evening. Several of the grades have already participated in class Zoom meetings and read-alouds.
    • For middle schoolers: Middle school teachers have collaborated with other teachers in their department to develop common plans, and each of the teachers has established common office hours. Staff has created a Shelburne Continuity of Learning Directory on their website to help students and families easily find their schoolwork, which includes a link to the work, the teacher’s office hours, and the teacher’s email address.
    • For high schoolers: High school teachers are also working together with others in their department to develop joint plans for common courses, where applicable.  Teachers are focusing on essential content so that students may work to achieve standard credit that is required for graduation. Teachers are sending materials to students and communicating with families each Monday, providing office hours two days per week, and providing feedback throughout the week.  
  2. Nutrition: To help families stay healthy and well-fed during this time, we are continuing to provide meals by delivery service. Bus stops and times are posted on the COVID-19 blog on our website. A special thanks to Project Grows for supplying free fresh produce and for helping with our meal deliveries!
  3. Technology: Free Chromebook laptops and internet hotspots are still available to families who need it. Our Technology Department has given out an estimated 350-400 laptops and 250 hotspots so far. Please contact your principal if you are in need.
  4. Budget: Our budget director is brainstorming and calculating ways to save money this year and prioritize needs for next year. It’s nearly impossible to project the virus’ impact on our budget at this point. Still, we expect that we’ll have to tighten our belt for a while, with a freeze on hiring for new positions and only filling positions open due to attrition. While we don’t know exactly what we’ll get, we are looking forward to the forthcoming stimulus package to help.
    We learned this morning that raises for teachers and other state employees have been suspended from the state budget for fiscal years 2021 and 2022. Funding for the expansion of the Virginia Preschool Initiative has also been suspended for both fiscal years.
    The City Council and School Board will have a virtual joint budget meeting at 5:30 p.m. April 23 to assess the situation. Our School Board members care deeply about the welfare of our students, families and employees and are committed to finding solutions during this challenging time.
  5. Operations: Our operations and maintenance crews continue to work tirelessly to clean and disinfect our buildings, make bus repairs, inspect vehicles, update first-aid kits and maintain our properties.
  6. High School Graduation & Construction: We don’t know how graduation will look or when it will take place, but we remain committed to finding a way to honor this year’s Senior class.  Collins and his staff are exploring every option.  Seniors will be doing a drive-by pickup of caps and gowns this week.
    Nielsen Builders, Inc. has been able to accelerate some phases of their construction work with staff and students out of the building.  The project has an ambitious timeline, so the school closure may actually be helpful for them. Our fingers are crossed that their work won’t be interrupted by the pandemic.

My sincerest thanks to you all for your patience and encouragement as we navigate this new normal together! Stay healthy, and please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can do anything to help you.

Garett Smith