Changes numerous this year but students, staff coping well
“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. ” -Socrates Greetings members of the Loyal School District. It is hard to believe that we are closing in on the end of the first quarter of the school year. The leaves have changed and started to fall, the weather is starting to feel more like late fall and winter, and I am guessing we will see some of that white stuff fall from the sky anytime soon. Throughout the past few weeks, we have been through a lot and have managed to keep our doors open and students in the building. This could not happen without the work of everyone involved in supporting our district. As I was thinking about all the things we have experienced thus far, I came across the quote above which I feel really tells the story of our students, staff and families within the district. Change ... something we all continue to endure, embrace, challenge and conquer. Without it, we would not be in the place we are today, and we would not be building our new path forward.
I would like to take a moment to discuss how some of the changes for this year have been going and how our students and staff are building their new path. First would be our block schedule. As you know, students are taking only their odd numbered courses for quarter 1. The classes meet for 83 minutes each day This took some time to get used to, but the feedback from staff and students has been good. Students like the additional time with their instructors and teachers feel they are able to cover their content more in depth and have time to work with students to check for understanding. Parents may notice that students have less homework. This is partially due to the extra time they have in class to practice. Many staff have commented that they feel they are further ahead with their teaching and learning than they have been in previous years. Students have commented that it is much less stressful to only have four classes in a day and more time to work with their teachers. Next quarter students will switch to their even-numbered classes. We plan to continue this type of schedule throughout the year. As the year continues to progress, we will capture our successes and challenges and use that information to determine how we would like to proceed and plan for the next school year.
This year has also been filled with many new procedural changes. We have been eating our lunches in classrooms, not having large group meetings or events, sanitizing desks, and other high touch surfaces, wearing face coverings, staggered bus dismissal times, to just name a few. When we consider the change and what we are asking the students and staff to do in the building each day, I think we are doing OK.
Each week it seems like we are charting our new path to include some sharp curves that require us to slow down and maybe reteach how to push through those corners. One of the biggest challenges has really been the face coverings. The adults in the building really don’t want to become the “mask police,” which I realize may seem like they are at times. I have asked all adults to continue to remind and prompt students to have their face coverings on properly at all times unless they feel it is time to take a “break” from them. Breaks should remain short and should only be given in the classroom when students and staff can maintain a safe social distance from each other. This will continue to be the way ahead with face coverings until the state and county decide to lessen the current guidelines in place.
We will also continue to screen students and adults as they enter the building each day. With all of the new procedures and guidelines, our goal has been to keep the doors to the school open for students and staff five days per week all school year. Other than a couple weeks where we were hit with a larger group of students and some staff out on quarantine, I feel we are staying the course and providing our students with a great education.
We are currently getting to the end of our fall sports seasons. All teams in both the middle and high school have been doing some great things. It has been nice to watch our student athletes compete. We were able to plan and execute a successful week of activities for our Homecoming. The students were involved with some daily activities and on Friday the afternoon culminated with grade level competitions and the crowning of our King and Queen. Congratulations Matthew and Savannah!
We have received the winter sports guidelines from WIAA and will continue to see much of the same type of limitations put on attendance as we have seen this fall. With the goal of keeping these opportunities going for our students, we will work to do what we can to keep our players healthy, our teams playing, and as many spectators watching as we can.
During the week of Oct. 12, we also started a couple of after-school programs. Our LEG (Loyal Enrichment Group) and our BLOP (Behavior Loss of Privilege) meet from 3:30 to 4:30 on Wednesday (BLOP) and Thursday (LEG) each week. Students can sign up for LEG and spend the time working on homework or getting help from the assigned teacher.
Students may be assigned to BLOP depending on their behavior. Students tardy too often to class or not exhibiting respectful or responsible behaviors will be asked to spend some time after school on Wednesdays.
During this time, students will be allowed to work on schoolwork, read or sit quietly They will not have access to their cell phones but can use their laptops for school related business. Although this may not be the most convenient time for students, the goal is to reteach students the expected behaviors and when students need time to ponder their actions an hour after school may offer this time. I don’t expect to have too many students assigned to BLOP throughout the year but realize it is something that needs to be in place.
Throughout the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to connect with some parents checking in on their child’s progress and to see how things are going. It is a great way for me to get to know our students and their families and I do appreciate the time I get to make these connections. I understand that change is not easy, and it not only affects life at school but for most we feel the effects throughout our daily lives as well. The past several months have not been easy for anyone. Our lives have been thrust into change and many different things we now must deal with. We are truly building the new.
Lastly, I have also been publishing a weekly video posted on Facebook and Instagram highlighting events from the current and upcoming week. Check them out if you get a chance.
Thanks everyone, for staying flexible and being supportive. Enjoy the upcoming winter season. Stay safe and I look forward to the days ahead working with you and your family.
Loyal Junior/Senior High Principal Doug Dieckman