By Rod Hite
Superintendent of Schools,
Switzerland County School Corporation
The first day of school is one of the most exciting days of the school year. There’s nothing more energizing than hearing the halls full of students, seeing teachers enthusiastically waving to students and hearing that first bell ring as you go by classrooms seeing teachers and students at their finest. The 2021-2022 school year will again be unique to what most of us feel is normal. It will certainly begin a little more “normal” than the 2020-2021 school year and certainly more familiar than the close of the 2019-2020 school year.
We’ve updated our return to school plan making masks optional this year. However, they will be required for all bus riders per the federal guidelines. This change in mask rules may change based on the cases within the county. We are also going to open our gyms to the public for extracurricular activities. This too may change as the school year progresses but our hope is we can find ways to support our student activities, student learning opportunities, and our general academic setting by still keeping our other safety measures in place. These include plexiglass at desks and in teaching areas, cafeteria checkouts and serving lines, cleaning bus seats after each morning and evening run, cleaning playground equipment, frequent hand washing, keeping our increased hand sanitizer available, using water bottles in replace of water fountains, and social distancing whenever possible.
We want parents to understand there will be no virtual option this year. We will continue to support any student who may be quarantined due to close contact or testing positive for COVID 19 but we realized last year there was a low positivity rate in schools. In addition, there was a board presentation, by the virtual teachers and principals of each building, and the academic success factor simply was not there last year for students who took classes online. There were some students who maintained their academic performance but for the most part we witnessed a sharp decline in student performance. We all know being with a teacher is the best instructional practice for students and student academic success is our main purpose as a school.
Online registration is critical for parents in many ways. This ensures we have the correct contact information on file in the event of an emergency or basic need to contact the parent, it allows the student Chromebook to be issued, and it also notifies transportation that your child needs to be picked up by the bus and the correct address is on file. I want to encourage all parents to please go online and register their child in Skyward under family access. If you need assistance, please call the building your child attends, we have people standing by that can help you complete the registration forms. You can even visit our buildings to assist with your registration process.
The school corporation can always use the support of the community but as we enter a school year with many challenges, we especially need the support of our parents and community members now more than ever. I know our community will also face challenges this year, as always the school system will be there to assist in any capacity we can provide support.
I want to take this opportunity to also thank all our county officials and support organizations from EMA to first responders. I know the past 18 months have been difficult for each of them. We appreciate all their support during this challenging time for the county and our school corporation.