September 4 Update
Sept. 4, 2020
The Nampa School District COVID Story.
Weeks from now, years from now, when stories are told or recalled, there will be a story about how our district responded to the COVID crisis. Just like the 1918 pandemic, people will learn from our choices.
The story will paint a picture and give context to our decisions. And if we are fortunate, it will paint a picture of multiple stories – a mosaic. Our story is comprised of many stories. No story is right or wrong, it just reflects the lived experiences of individuals who are working their way through their circumstances to the best of their abilities.
Here are some of the stories that impact our overall story.
We have single parents. They must work to provide for their family. Perhaps they have no other family members near to support them. Maybe they do not have neighbors they trust. No friend, church or other organization has reached out to help. They are likely to have a limited budget. They are likely to be feeling overwhelmed.
We have families and staff with multiple children. It is clear in our story that we have families with several children. Their home has become a “single room schoolhouse.” We have families with 4,6, 9 children. We have families who are caregivers for several foster children. The challenges of organizing the schoolwork of several children can be daunting. Interacting with multiple teachers is challenging.
We have families and staff with children who have special needs. 1,765 of our students have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and will soon have, if they don’t already, a specific plan for online and hybrid learning. Parents, teachers and specialists are meeting to ensure all these students continue to receive an appropriate education. Some of these students are already back on campus. Each of these students is supported by a team of experts – general education teachers, special education teachers, speech language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, counselors, psychologists and of course, their parents or guardians.
We have families with athletes in their homes. We have students who excel not only in the classroom, but on the field or court or arena. Students and families are invested in this extra-curricular opportunity. For some, this is the connection to school.
We have families that believe COVID-19 is not real, believe COVID-19 is worse than we are being told, quote medical experts, share Facebook posts that may or may not come from reliable sources, believe the data that is produced by the CDC, WHO or SWDH, or question every piece of data produced by these organizations.
We have families and staff who have access to the internet and are ready to go, those who have worked with the NSD to obtain access and are now ready to go, and those who are still working with us for the best solution toward connectivity.
We have families and staff with shy children, withdrawn children, outgoing children, bored children, depressed children, and engaged children.
We have families and staff who have children with underlying physical conditions, vulnerable family members or neighbors, loved ones who are elderly, and infants or newborns in their home.
We have parents who have been impressed with the first weeks of school, hated the first weeks of school, loved the conversations they are hearing through Teams or Zoom, and those who have been less than impressed with what they see or hear.
We have families and staff with band students, orchestra students, debate/competitive speech students, cheerleaders, dance team members, and CTE students.
We have affluent families, middle class families, and families living in poverty.
We have children who have a full-time parent at home, a grandparent at home, another relative at home, a friend, neighbor or older sibling at home, and those with no one at home.
We have families who have said they support masks and others who are clear they will never support wearing masks.
We have families who believe mandatory masks are a liberty thing, a medical thing or just a thing.
We have students who want to be back at school and in competition, we have those who do not believe it is yet the right time.
We have staff who are eager and want nothing more than to have students back in their classroom. We have staff who love their students but are not yet comfortable with full classrooms or even partial classrooms while we are in the RED category.
We have parents and staff who are angry with board decisions and those who are relieved.
These are the stories that create our context and are part of the mosaic of who we are. We are each living this experience and maneuvering through this time to the best of our ability. Some have more challenges or additional barriers than others. Some are dealing with homelessness, joblessness, illness or death.
There are no right or wrong stories. They are what they are – individual reality. And we now have a choice to make.
The story of the Nampa School District could reflect how a community chose to focus on our differences and move forward with division, distrust, and animosity, implying that those who choose a different outcome are just plain wrong, mean, evil, stupid, deceitful, idiotic and any other of the words we have seen carelessly shared in social media.
Or we can choose unity. Recognizing that we have the responsibility to care for all children in our community. Recognizing that a decision must be made, and we may not agree with it. Recognizing that we can choose our response and can be part of the solution.
If we have families who have no one to care for their children while they must work or have too many to care for – let’s support them. Reach out to them. Encourage our houses of faith to find ways to meet their needs. Form neighborhood groups (small groups) that can take turns in providing care. Let's set up study groups among friends and neighbors. Teachers – connect families if it is appropriate.
If we have children who are struggling emotionally during this time – let’s recognize it and do something about it. Reach out – there are supports. There is help. We can connect families to resources in the community. Don’t just watch it – change it.
If we want students back in school, let’s all do our part to physically distance, wash our hands, protect others from our coughs, and wear face coverings. Let’s work to limit non-essential gatherings for a few more weeks. We wouldn’t be where we are if we weren’t experiencing this level of community spread.
Your district does amazing things, whether you recognize it or not. Let me brag.
We created an online school in three months, we have gathered parent and staff opinions, we have built partnerships with community organizations, we have created a space for children of staff to be cared for while our staff cares for 14,000 community children, we feed children, we provide mental health support, we are doing home visits, we provide access to physical health care, we provide devices and connectivity, we provide diapers, food, school supplies, clothing, shoes and haircuts. Yes, even a haircut. These are the things we do – not because we must, but because there is a void and children need these things to access that other thing we do – provide a quality education.
We have staff who have made personal visits to students’ front door steps, played tic-tac-toe on the window of a students living room, connected with students through Zoom and Team meetings, sent emails, made phone calls, visited homes to help organize and support families, and more.
Honestly, we are stretched. We are working with a budget that has been cut by 5% – representing millions of dollars. Our teachers are working harder than they ever have before. We are making choices to forego some things in order to keep resources as close to teachers and students as we can.
This story has not been perfect; however, it really is quite amazing.
It is NOT the story that we wanted to unfold this fall. We wanted what all parents, students and staff wanted – students in our classrooms. We will get there. It may take a little longer, but together, with a little work, we can make this a reality.
NSD is the third-largest district in the state and the largest employer in Nampa. When we are fully back in session, our footprint will be noticed. We are not Melba, we are not Vallivue, we are not Caldwell, we are not a small charter, we are not West Ada or Boise. We are Nampa. And we need to care for our city, our community, our students and our staff. And we have made the national map as a place who has one of the highest, uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.
We can do this! It’s simple – please join us. We are a great community that can rally together. We are so close. We need just a few more weeks of downward trend.
Our story does not have to be an ugly story. Our goals are the same and we are on the same team. Our children deserve a community that works together to bring them back to our classrooms. Teamwork can accomplish more than division. Teamwork can get us to where we all want to be. Together, Nampa can make this happen!
Dr. Paula Kellerer
Nampa School District