I have been a proud member of the Oxford Schools family for over 20 years. I have seen our people come together in the face of adversity time and time again and marveled at the way we have found strength in one another to endure tragedies, hardships, and other very emotional events in this community. I am not surprised that we are one of the few school districts statewide that found a way to work together to open our doors for students this fall during a global pandemic.
We have stayed true to our mission to serve students and families while prioritizing staff and student safety and emotional well-being. I have never been prouder to be a part of Team O than I am today, as we have successfully offered our students and staff 14 weeks of in-person instruction with the occasional shift to hybrid or remote learning for brief, necessary periods.
This year has certainly been unlike any other. Our schools are full of social distancing signs and sanitizer stations. Our classrooms have rigid seating charts and disinfectant wipes. Our virtual academy (OVA) enrolled the equivalent of one-and-a-half times the size of our high school in the weeks leading up to the start of school. We hired teachers and support staff and delivered technology to thousands of students. Nevertheless, even with the face shields, masks, Plexiglas, neighborhoods, the internet, and walls — with all the barriers between them — our amazing educators have made the meaningful connections that our students so deeply desired. Even those riddled with uncertainty showed up. Not just our teachers and administrators, but our bus drivers, our food service staff, our custodians, our techs, our secretaries, our security team, our paraprofessionals, our board of education: they all showed up. Everyone showed up for kids.
In these times of ambiguity and uncertainty, all stakeholders agreed on one prevailing goal: we would do everything we could— and should— to safely educate our students. This goal meant opening our doors to face-to-face learning and offering online options through our Oxford Virtual Academy. It meant engaging in difficult discussions and managing the anxiety of the unknown. It meant countless hours of processing transfer paperwork and registration documentation. It meant committing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on PPE, cleaning equipment, technology, laptops, and internet hotspots. It meant shuffling staff to assignments that suited their personal needs while maintaining low class sizes.
As the rules have continually changed, we have remained quick on our feet. We can play football. We can’t play football. We can play football, but no one can watch. Okay, we can have spectators, but we have to wear masks. We should not wear masks while we play football. Yes, we definitely must wear masks while we play. Rather than throw our hands up, we have adapted to each new regulation and committed ourselves to making it work. This goes for our community, too: they have answered the call and have made informed choices for each of their families. Parents have placed their trust in us and signed up to act as nurses monitoring for symptoms; drivers shuttling students; and tech specialists supporting online learning. I have heard this ability to change referenced as being “nimble” or “flexible.” More importantly, though, this can be characterized as GRIT. One of our elementary teachers shared their classroom moto with me a couple of weeks ago: “We’ve got grit. We won’t quit!”
As 2020 ends and the new year begins, I believe we all are looking forward to closing the current chapter and beginning a new one. It always has been and always will be about doing what is best for our students, employees, and community. I am hopeful that the overwhelming extensions of empathy, kindness, and grace will endure. I am proud to be a Wildcat and no matter what this year brings, I know we can conquer it together. From our house to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and most certainly a Great New Year! Go, Wildcats!!