This is William Cameron, the Superintendent of Schools in Lenox.
Those of you with long enough memories may recall a song by The Grateful Dead called “Truckin’.” The last line of the song is, “What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.” This should be the theme song of the school year that ended today, on June 17.
Although it’s been only three months since the Lenox schools closed their doors for what tuned out to be the rest of the school year, the word “only” should be in quotation marks. This year has presented remarkable challenges to those of you with children and young people at home day after day, week after week, trying to ensure that they remain engaged in education through remote learning while keeping them and yourselves safe from COVID-19. Those challenges for families of color, who, whether there’s an epidemic or not, must deal daily with the great obstacles created for them by centuries of American racism — obstacles they find even our own schools posing to them — have been that much worse. What’s more, the challenges you’ve faced have also been faced by many Lenox educators. Some of them have school-age children in their households, but as schools remained closed it’s been expected that they continue to educate our children, and do so by means never before relied on to anything near this extent.
No one will bid a sad farewell to the 2019-2020 school year.
As we look ahead to the 2020-2021 school year, we face uncertainty. We appear to have three options for the fall:
— restart school as if the COVID-19 epidemic were no longer a threat;
— remain in a fully remote learning situation for the foreseeable future; or,
— if schools are to reopen cautiously, then, in order to account for the social distancing sound public health practice demands, take a hybrid approach, involving some version of part-time in-school education for most students, and part-time remote learning in some fashion for those same children.
Each alternative has major shortcomings. In addition, we must also prepare for a resurgence of COVID-19 that would interrupt reopened schooling and force us back into full-time remote learning. We await guidance and direction from public health agencies and the education officials at the state level.
When a model for resuming school in the fall has been settled on, we will contact our parents and guardians to survey them on several matters crucial to doing so in a sound way. These include their children’s transportation in case school opens in some fashion; whether parents and guardians will even allow their children to return to school; and an update on the status of Internet access and the availability of electronic devices at home in case remote learning continues, as is likely at least part-time.
I will keep you informed as the summer progresses on what we learn from state agencies, what the educational model will be for the start of school, and the measures we will take to ensure that reopened schools are safe places to which students, staff, and families can return.
The summer solstice is Saturday. I sincerely hope that and your families are able to find ways to relax, to alleviate at least somewhat the stress under which we all have been living and working, and to enjoy yourselves.
Please continue to wash your hands, observe the physical distancing that keeps the virus at bay, and avoid large gatherings of people. We all are facing immense common problems at this time. Some are epidemiological, some are educational, some are social, some are moral. If we don’t stay together in working through these immense problems then they will overwhelm us.
—William Cameron, Interim Supt. of Schools