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SIMON: The most unusual and challenging school year
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SIMON: The most unusual and challenging school year

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Exactly one year ago today, life as we knew it changed dramatically. 

On March 13, 2020, schools in South Dakota and across the nation closed their doors not knowing that it would be the last time teachers would see their students and co-workers in person for the remainder of the school year.

In the months to follow, terms like live instruction, asynchronous learning, and Zooming were suddenly part of our everyday vocabulary. Graduation went virtual, standardized tests were scrapped, and grading systems were altered. Still, in those toughest of days, our school staff stepped up in creative, inspiring ways. Teachers paraded through their school neighborhoods, educators who are parents themselves juggled teaching while overseeing their children’s remote learning, teachers mailed homework packets, IT staff quickly worked to make sure every student had a device, school meals were prepared and handed out, and the list goes on. 

This past summer, the reality of what it would take to safely open our schools set in. The stakes were high, the discussions were often contentious, the price tag was big, and the anxiety and uncertainty were real.  Since then, we have grappled with the virus in our schools and impacting our loved ones, changing health rules and guidance, and very difficult and often controversial decisions – all while trying to keep students both safe and learning. At the time, I don’t believe any of us truly understood the enormity of all that this would encompass.

A year later, there are still uncertainties, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Our staff are being vaccinated, the district is set to receive funding from the federal government to help us deal with the fallout of COVID-19, and our schools have been at Level 1 since November 30. We aren’t back to pre-COVID normal, but we are making progress every day. 

As we head into the final quarter of this most unusual and challenging school year, I want to publicly thank the dedicated RCAS staff members who continue to show up, work hard, and serve the students in our school district. When so many students in our country haven’t been in a classroom in over a year, I am grateful we have had a school year, even with its ups and downs. To our families, thanks for your patience and grace as we all continue to work to do our best to put kids first, through good times and bad – today and every day.  

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