These changes will have lasting effects

When life shut down last March, preparation for that eventuality was scant to nonexistent. Who expected that not only would that happen, but also that it would last so long? Well, Bill Gates and other pandemic watchers may have foreseen it, but for general society, it all came as quite an unpleasant and unwelcome surprise. And for no one (who wasn’t affected directly by the disease itself) was it a source of more upheaval and long-term repercussions than for educators, students and their families.

For students, every year and even every semester within each school year can be critically important for their development. But it’s not always predictable which semester of which year will be that defining moment for any young person: the moment when a light bulb goes off and they decide they love math, or science, or history, or art; that moment when they try out for the school play and are surprised when they win a part; the moment when their practice for their team of choice pays off in winning a tournament game. The list can go on and on. All these things define  a school experience, and these can be hard or impossible to replace when direct connection must be put on hold.

So the challenge for teachers has been great, trying to find new ways to keep their students engaged. Fortunately, Connecticut in general and Region One in particular have found ways to do everything they could to have students benefit from in-person learning. This school year, the Region One elementary schools have kept in-person education the norm, only having that change when individual classes had some exposure to diagnosed cases of COVID-19. Then, just those students would be asked to quarantine for a period of time, and manage their schoolwork remotely, until judged to be ready to meet in person again. 

Housatonic Valley Regional High School took up a varied model for the school year, with a mix of in-person and remote classes (For details, see story by Senior Reporter Patrick Sullivan on page A3 this week.) When there was an outbreak of COVID after the holidays, the school went to all-online learning for a time, but came back to the mix as quickly as possible, Jan. 19. This has surely made for a year when teachers, students and parents had to be creative, resilient and flexible. 

While there may be some gap in academic progress, though, during this year of COVID, it could be that the tools found to cope with adversity will be the thing these students retain and carry with them the rest of their lives. Those skills of finding a path forward through unforeseen obstacles may be among the most useful lessons they can learn during their elementary and high school years. 

For those who have found themselves struggling during this school year, students and educators alike, you should know you are not alone and the community is only hoping the best for all of you as you deal with the restrictions of a pandemic. And if it all seems too much sometimes, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help from your families or school counselors and teachers. They will be there for you. 

Thanks go to the Region One administrators, especially Superintendent Lisa Carter, for being open and transparent with the community about planning and implementation of goals throughout the school year. Kudos as well to all the students, parents and teachers who have persevered through some very tough times. There may now be some hope for brighter times as more of us gain access to vaccines, and teachers and child-care givers have become eligible for them.

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