As a life-long educator, and one who truly values the work done in schools every day, it is hard to find the words to express the appreciation I have for the faculty and staff here at Monty Tech who have risen to the challenge of providing high-quality educational programs amid a worldwide pandemic. I could never have imagined a time when schools would be closed, teachers would be forced to rely solely on technology to deliver instruction, and students would be quarantining at home, away from friends and family they so depend on for a natural, healthy childhood. But that is exactly what we have witnessed for since March 2020. I appreciate the collective efforts of our staff and want to assure the entire Monty Tech community that the health and well-being of every student remains our top priority.
Student health is critical to academic and vocational achievement, and student health is so much more than physical well-being. Students must not only feel safe and supported in their learning environments, but they must also have outlets to express frustration, dissatisfaction, and even worry. The Monty Tech educational community is a diverse student population, with varied backgrounds and socio-emotional needs. Our outstanding team of professionals has enjoyed the privilege of working with these students while they were right down the hall or in classrooms and shops across the building, but now, as they are in homes spanning a district of 18 cities and towns, these students may feel more disconnected, less engaged, and perhaps even more worried for themselves and their loved ones than ever before. To that end, it is so important that we continue to seek and employ creative measures to reach out to our students to assure them that they remain our top priority.
When school resumes in the Fall, it will undoubtedly look and feel different. Students and staff will be asked to follow social distancing guidelines, maintain healthy hygiene practices, and will be working in smaller student groups. The flow of the building will feel different, as we work to minimize student interactions in large, open spaces. School leaders have developed strong working relationships with area health practitioners, and will continue to include these important perspectives in our planning as we move forward.
On June 25, 2020, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its first round of re-opening guidelines, requiring districts to prepare a reopening plan that addresses three possible learning models for this fall:
- in-person learning with new safety requirements
- a hybrid of in-person and remote learning, and
- the continuation of remote learning
To address this request, we have developed a Reopening Committee and will be conducting feasibility studies to prepare comprehensive plans for each of the learning models noted above. Once those plans have been submitted and a reopening plan has been approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, we will provide more detailed information to the entire Monty Tech community.
We know that a Monty Tech education is so much more than a traditional high school experience. Our academic program of studies is balanced by engaging, hands-on, and very practical vocational lessons. So, you may ask, how can we effectively deliver a vocational education remotely? How can all students find success when they are at home, working and learning in very different, perhaps even inequitable, learning environments? This is what drives my work. As we seek answers to these questions and so many more, please be assured that while our faculty and staff recognize that nothing can replace an in-person school experience, there are ways we can continue to provide high-quality instruction and student support services to each and every Monty Tech student. Teachers are attending professional development programs to build capacity in on-line instruction; they are developing new curriculum that we hope will engage students in a remote learning environment. Guidance counselors are reaching out to their students to remind them that they are so much more than a high school student – they are part of a larger Monty Tech “family”.
As we spend our summer months planning for a safe return to the school, we wish all students and families good health and peace in this uncertain and trying time. Be well…
Sheila M. Harrity, Ed.D.