The following column by Dr. Maria Lagana Suttmeier, Superintendent of Schools, will be published in the Register-Star newspaper on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.
The start of the new school year is here. We have been here many times before but never like this. It is a momentous time at the Hudson City School District and in the history of public education. After being thrown the pandemic curveball in March, we did a lot of reflection about our experiences as educators and what must be done to restore some sense of normalcy this September.
The planning to welcome back our students has been non-stop. HCSD spent hundreds of hours holding meetings, solving one problem after another, and putting together thousands of metaphorical puzzle pieces to create the best reopening plan within our power.
Our school reopening was carefully planned in collaboration with a wide range of district stakeholders. Since in-person instruction will occur within a new set of guidelines that follow CDC and Department of Health recommendations, many agreed it would be smart to ease into the year with a slow and steady phase-in approach. This will allow time for the first wave of students and staff to navigate the new school environment before welcoming the next group of students into the physical buildings.
It may take time but we will all get used to wearing masks, temperature checks and social distancing as part of the in-school learning environment. Hudson families that registered for the HCSD Virtual School option are also adapting to a new learning environment with its own unique challenges.
To support all Hudson students with hybrid-remote and virtual learning needs, nearly 950 Chromebooks and 30 mobile hotspots were provided before the first day of school.
This school year will certainly be unique and we know there will be hiccups. We must be flexible and willing to adapt. We will continue to do everything in our power to keep Hudson moving forward by regularly assessing our practices, applying adjustments as needed, and making good decisions that keep the health and safety of all individuals at the forefront.
As educators and parents, we must do our part to provide a safe and efficient learning environment–in-person and online–so students can achieve academic excellence, become future ready, and commit to active civic engagement. As things begin returning to a more familiar situation, we must stay strongly united to overcome any obstacles that we will inevitably encounter. We can do this–our students deserve it, their families deserve it, our community deserves it and our faculty and staff deserve it.
Keeping in mind that we are all doing something that has never been done before should help us get through this as a community. No student in our lifetime has had to learn like this, no parent has had to parent like this, no teacher has had to teach like this, no school has had to prepare like this, and no community has had to endure like this. However, together, we can and we will rise up. I have no doubt that we will continue to rise up to future challenges with the same Bluehawk determination we displayed in the past.
This school year will be like no other, but nonetheless, we must do all we can to make it a great one for our students, who only get one shot to engage with this year’s academic curriculum and develop essential social-emotional skills to take them to the next level. To paraphrase a line from the incredibly successful musical, “Hamilton,” it is our job to make sure we are not throwing away that shot!
So with masks on, Hudson will rise up! For more information and updates about the reopening of Hudson schools, visit our website at www.hudsoncsd.org/reopening.