The Wenatchee School District has started the school year online, and I am very proud of our students, staff and parents as we take on this challenge.

I know this is not what we wanted for our students. As I addressed our 1,200 employees on opening day, I spoke about the need to rise up in the face of adversity. Rise up to face the challenges of online learning. Rise up to create equitable opportunities for each student so they can demonstrate their amazing gifts and talents. Rise up to build strong relationships and partnerships with our students and families. When we rise up together, we are stronger in our efforts to support our students and families.

In our efforts to build even stronger relationships with our students and families, the Wenatchee School District made the intentional decision to begin our school year with Launch to Learn activities and instruction.

Knowing the anxiety and uncertainty that our parents, students and staff where feeling about starting the year online, we created space and time for parents, students and staff to come together virtually and in-person to meet, get to know each other, set learning expectations and help students and parents navigate new technology tools needed to participate in online learning.

We knew we needed to forge a strong partnership, and by all accounts, Launch to Learn week accomplished this goal. We know our parents and families better, we know what challenges they may be facing, and we are better positioned as a district to support both students and families as we progress through the fall.

These partnerships will help us through the challenging times of online learning. And, we will need to lean into these partnerships, because the reality is online learning is hard for most of our students, and it is incredibly challenging for most of our parents and guardians.

Knowing our families and knowing what they’re up against, we anticipated that even with a solid start we would need to advocate for students and families to ensure their students are attending school daily.

There is no doubt that even for those families with the means, remote learning is not an ideal method to educate children. It becomes significantly more difficult for those who are in crisis, experience housing or food insecurity, lack internet access or who are balancing work and home life responsibilities.

When children don’t show up to their virtual classrooms, we know it and our staff are reaching out, conducting home visits and making phone calls to identify any barriers that a student or family may be experiencing that would prevent them from attending. But we cannot do this alone.

If you know a child who is not attending school or a family who is struggling for whatever reason, I ask that you encourage them to reach out to their school so we can help. Thanks to community partnerships we have many tools and resources available to support families when they experience hardship.

Our parents, families and caretakers have risen to the challenge of remote learning and are coming alongside children in a way that we have not seen in public education in my lifetime. They are the glue that holds remote learning together at home.

Our families have taken their role as educators seriously and are partnering with teachers and staff to ensure the success of their children and in many cases, the success of other children. I admire their grit, resilience and perseverance and thank them for all they have done and will continue to do. I am also asking that if you are struggling, to please connect with your child’s school or teacher. We will work to try and resolve the issues.

The Board’s values of Equity, Academic Excellence, and Accountability guide and reinforce how we educate and support our students, how we hire and support our staff, and how we engage our entire community. The resolve of our district and school board is to bring our students back into our classrooms starting with our youngest and most vulnerable as soon as possible.

When a school district leads with equity, like we do in the Wenatchee School District, it means that we are committed to removing barriers that are in the way for each student to learn, for each student to have access to learning, food, and the necessary support.

We will continue to advocate for our families and students and collaborate with local school leaders and the Chelan/Douglas Health District on ways that we can return to in-person instruction safely. The downward trend of COVID rates in the community is promising and poses a glimmer of hope that we may be able to open our doors in the near future to close the gaps that may be widening as the pandemic rages on.

The Board’s value of Academic Excellence sets a clear expectation as to how we navigate the delivery of education. We recognize that online or not, every class must be challenging for our students. Learning is hard work, and we will not apologize for this. By holding the bar high for our students, we send the clear message that we believe in the exceptional ability of each student.

While recognizing that each student is different, which means their support to reach the bar will look different. Again, this is why relationships are key to achieving academic excellence and why we started the school year in this vein; we need to know our students and families exceptionally well in order to help them grow and achieve.

We’re here for them, no matter what.

As the superintendent of the Wenatchee School District, the value of accountability falls squarely on my shoulders.

I told the community that the Wenatchee School District would build stronger relationships with our parents, students and community in order to deliver on the promise of a more rigorous and relevant education for each of our students.

We will deliver on this promise through inclusion, partnerships, communication and trust. It will be a collective effort by us all to persevere for the sake of our children. Wenatchee has a rich history of doing great things in the face of adversity and together we will rise up together and face this new challenge head on.