Leaders have been actively seeking community input on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their schools since May when, starting with school finance, the district held the first of what would be some 20 public sessions around the issue. Several drew more than 400 virtual attendees.
After initially releasing a fully in-person return-to-school plan, the district revised it twice as national, state and local health guidelines changed. First, a hybrid model was added. The latest version includes a hybrid half-day model for grades 6-12; full-day, in-person cohort model for K-5; and a virtual option for all students, with EGR teachers.
Superintendent Heidi Kattula said it’s common practice in EGR to involve families and staff.
“They are able to see things we don’t see, to help us think about our messaging, how x, y and z will play out,” she said. “We say to them, ‘We’re sharing our thinking, and we want your feedback so we can see if we’re in line with your thinking.’
“We are all going through this; we should all be working together on a solution. But we know what works for East is what’s best for East. Each community should be working on their own plan.”
Kattula led the development of reopening protocols for the Kent Intermediate Superintendents Association Futures Committee. The group is working with the Kent County Health Department, Spectrum Health and business and community leaders. Kattula said the group has gathered health, strategy and mitigation input from across the globe.
“I think it’s important in a time of chaos to provide leadership, direction and strength,” she said. “This is critical work for us to do, to bring our kids back, to support those who are most vulnerable. These are difficult times, but this is when we need to shine and provide leadership for our children.”
The group used guidelines created for EGR staff and child care to return in June as a framework for students to come back. Videos are in the works about handwashing, mask-wearing and social distancing that will be standard across Kent County districts.