JULY 16, 2020

Safe Return to School
“Power of WE in The New Normal”

Six teams of administrators, teachers, and staff who have been meeting throughout the summer to discuss instructional options for the safe return to schools spent time visiting several schools in the District last week.  Their goal was to look, and more importantly, get a feel for how things will have to change now that Colonial Nation and the world is facing a “new normal” under COVID-19.  From practicing social distancing on buses and in classrooms, to literally walking the halls as students would during class changes, team members wanted to experience it all.  
Through these meetings, CSD team members considered:
  • What a student’s day would look like
  • How will classrooms remain sanitized throughout the day?
  • How can we reach and teach students behind masks and without personal touch?
  • How must car lines be adjusted?  
  • How will social distancing be practiced?  
  • What will lunch and recess look like? 
  • What about the band, music, and sports?
With 2,300 students in Delaware’s largest high school, William Penn Principal Lisa Brewington was among those assigned to one team.  “It was very eye-opening to actually go in and look at things that we usually take for granted; it’s going to be a challenge, I can say that.”  Still, Brewington remains optimistic saying, “It’s very emotional because as teachers we all want to be at school, we love our schools and students, but at the same time you also have this second part where you have to keep everyone safe.  It’s a matter of finding that sweet spot; we’ve done remote learning, we also have that as a tool so it’s all a matter of finding maybe a mix of both or if we can have everyone come in,” Brewington said.

William Penn Chief Custodian Shawn Foster, also a member of a team, has had his staff measuring classrooms and removing things like bookshelves to figure out how many desks can fit in a socially-distanced learning environment.  Transforming large spaces like cafeterias and multi-purpose rooms into classrooms are among the things being considered.  Foster knows some bathrooms at Penn will have to be closed in order to stay on top of sanitation.  “There are so many layers to it as far as getting kids into the building and how you control all of the safety protocols to keep the kids and staff safe,” he said. 
Foster has two children at George Read Middle School and admits as a parent he’s “on the fence” about sending his own kids to school.  “It’s a scary thing at the end of the day; you don’t know what’s right or wrong.” 

Southern teacher Michelle Upperman is also a team member saying, “Being a part of the planning and discussions around a safe return to school, I have seen firsthand the care that has been taken to include all stakeholders in these conversations and decisions.  Colonial has truly taken a collaborative approach to this task,” Upperman said.  As an elementary teacher, she admits having concerns around the restrictions needed if students return to the classroom.  “After visiting an elementary classroom to see what this new normal would actually look like, put things in perspective very quickly.  Classrooms will be stripped of the very things that make them warm and inviting for students; carpets, extra tables, shelves, circle time, having the teacher come over to answer a question, hugging or high fiving their teacher...are students going to be able to truly learn and grow in this environment?” Upperman wonders. Faced with these concerns and many more, the decisions made by the instructional and operations teams are difficult ones, but team members are committed to keeping students and staff safe while offering students the quality education they deserve.

Families, we need your feedback

In the coming week, we will be gathering more targeted information and feedback that allows families to have a choice (when possible) for their children at the pre-k, elementary, and middle school levels. (Decisions at William Penn and Wallace Wallin are still pending)
Parents and guardians will be sent a survey through email that asks for their opinion regarding options and feedback around transportation and learning options.  You will see many notices being posted on our social media and through phone calls to families.  

The decisions made by the instructional and operations teams are difficult ones, but team members are committed to keeping students and staff safe while offering students the quality education they deserve.

Guidance for Returning To School from State Task Forces

On Tuesday, Governor John Carney and DOE announced back to school plans.  Here’s a link to the document that was released.  

Here are some good tips to follow to keep everyone safe when school resumes:
• Avoid touching your face
• Sneeze in a tissue or the bend of the elbow
• Don’t physically touch anyone other than siblings. Remind youngsters that they should not hug, hold hands, or touch their peers & staff
• Practice social distancing--raising both arms is a good way to measure how far away to stay from others
• Do not share school supplies like pencils, pens, crayons, etc.
• Use sanitation centers in classrooms and school entrances
• Thoroughly wash hands often for 20 seconds.  Click the link below and share it with young children about the importance of handwashing and avoiding germs

We realize the above will be difficult for students and families, but precautions are a must to avoid spreading the virus. The above videos are important to watch with your children, and each week more will be shared on various topics.

Remember, Colonial’s “Safe Return to School” instructional and operational teams are hard at work now in an effort to determine how all of the suggested scenarios can be safely and effectively executed. For the latest information, please continue to monitor Colonial Clippings, the District website at www.colonialschooldistrict.org, and school Facebook pages.

WE Focus on Equity

While focusing on equity in Colonial Nation began several years ago, a District Equity Team has been meeting in earnest since January.  Dr. Crystal Lancour is among the administrators helping to facilitate this effort saying, “We have a commitment to equity in Colonial and that means we are learning and growing to gain a deeper understanding of race, equity, and its impact on student learning so our Colonial community is stronger together.”  The administrators, teachers, and staff on the Equity Team know the work means having tough and sometimes uncomfortable conversations around race and the importance of equity in a district where the majority of students are black and brown, but the staff does not reflect that in the classroom and beyond.

Last week the group shared what is called Equity ERA (Engage-Reflect-Act). ERA is a self-guided learning resource link that contains documents, videos, book selections, and more for team members and staff to review. The goal of ERA is for team members and staff to have the resources needed to learn and reflect on race-related issues in order to raise self-awareness and sensitivity for the sake of students of color.

“Every learner in Colonial deserves the best from us as educators, so we have to ensure that we know our students and ourselves well enough to be able to provide learning experiences that meet their academic, and social/emotional needs.  Understanding race and equity and its impact on learning is a huge part of this journey in order for us to do that effectively,” Lancour said.

Summer Food Rocks! WE Feed!

It seems as if NOTHING can stop Colonial’s Nutrition Services staff from taking care of students’ nutritional needs!   When schools abruptly closed in March, the Power of WE came through strong. 

To date, we have served 457,132 nutritious meals to our students!

Children and families have voiced their appreciation of the meal services and are so happy to see foods they are familiar with from their cafeterias.  Also, students have received healthy treats of fresh fruit, low-fat ice cream, or a whole grain cookie once a week.
New Castle County Summer Youth Employment Program 
Smiling through our masks, WE are still on the road and in our drive-throughs distributing wholesome and delicious breakfasts and lunches every Monday and Wednesday.  Again this year the New Castle County Summer Youth Employment Program has partnered with Nutrition Services, engaging five youth at our McCullough and William Penn feeding sites.  This program is designed to involve low-income youth ages 14-20 years of age in having a productive summer and to be involved in work-based learning that helps launch their careers.  For many students, this is their first exposure to the world of work and the Nutrition staff is excited to help them learn about the district’s award-winning operation while working in the kitchens packing meals and serving from our buses. 

Summer meal distribution continues through August 5th and is no charge to students 18 years of age and younger.   
Students do not need to be present at pick up, but adults please wear a mask.  Please visit http://www.colonialschooldistrict.org/community/summer-food-program/   for the schedule.

Kudos to this Colonial

William Penn grad Alfonso Mancilla recently learned that he earned Wilmington University's Neighborhood Scholarship, giving him a full ride to higher education!  Mancilla, an Allied Health student who plans to major in biology, applied to Wilmington University and had high hopes of being chosen to be the recipient of a full scholarship.  “It was shocking to hear but also relieving to hear that I had gotten it as the hard work paid off.  It was a very emotional time for me and my family, and I could not be happier knowing I made the right choice to attend Wilmington University,” Mancilla said.  Guidance counselor Gloria Huynh-ba is equally thrilled saying, ”We are excited to continue our partnership with Wilmington University and provide this monumental scholarship to one of our graduating seniors this year.”  Principal Lisa Brewington thanks Wilmington University, and as for Alfonso she says, “This is a wonderful opportunity and I am excited that Wilmington University was able to provide Alfonso with a full scholarship!”
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