By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
As Yukon Public Schools prepares to start the 2020-21 school year in a most abnormal fashion, YPS board members heaped praise on district personnel for their diligence.
With Canadian County becoming somewhat of a COVID-19 hotbed and concerns about the virus spreading, the Yukon school district will start the new school year with all-online instruction.
The district’s Continuous Learning Plan launches Monday, Aug. 24, and will be reevaluated at October’s YPS Board of Education meeting. Students enrolled in the semester-long Yukon Virtual School will start their program Aug. 26.
YPS officials had hoped to offer school in the traditional setting starting Aug. 20, but now continuous learning students won’t return to classrooms until October at the earliest.
YPS board members, at their Aug. 4 meeting, offered kudos to the district’s teachers and support staff who have been working to prepare for the online classes and virtual learning.
YPS Board President Suzanne Cannon said Yukon’s teachers are some of the most “flexible and creative” people in the world.
“It seems like anytime there’s a change, we ask them to help us figure it out,” Cannon said. “Our administrative staff has been working so hard trying to come up with something that’s a moving target. There’s nothing solid there to plan for or around, so all of it is a moving target.
“I want to thank all of them for being flexible and creative, (and for) their hard work. Things change daily in this, and we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
The decision to start the 2020-21 school year with online-only instruction came late last week after several YPS employees and staff tested positive and were exposed to the deadly virus.
The school district’s staff have been “working so, so hard,” YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth told district patrons.
“They’ve been working hard for weeks to make sure that – if we had to do this – we’d be ready,” Simeroth said. “We’re ready. It’s going to be different. It’s going to be difficult. But it’s going to be done professionally.
“And it’s done for the right reasons. That’s the health of your child. And it’s the health of our teacher, and our custodian and our bus driver … everybody in our district.”
Since May, YPS teachers have done professional development and created lessons in preparation for the online learning plan.
“They’ve done a fantastic job – and your kids will learn,” Simeroth said. “And that’s what we’re all about … having your kids learn and keeping them safe.”
SCHOOLS FACE ‘TRYING TIMES’
YPS Board Vice President Chris Cunningham said Yukon and other school districts face “trying times.”
“Our superintendent and staff are doing some good things and they’re working as hard as they can,” Cunningham said. “I want to thank all the teachers who are preparing. Everybody is doing the best they can.
“These are odd times that we’re living in.”
Board Clerk Michele Hawthorne said YPS personnel and board members truly care about all district students.
“I want to thank the teachers, staff and everybody trying to navigate this unknown territory we’re going through right now,” Hawthorne said. “Our staff and Dr. Simeroth, it’s amazing to see what they are doing. They are working ‘around the clock’ to make sure our kids are safe.
“I know it’s not the most ideal situation, but we’re doing the best we can.”
Board Deputy Clerk Leonard Wells acknowledged having all-virtual school is “not a pleasant thing” – but he’s confident it’s the right decision.
“After our discussion with Dr. Simeroth, I think we just were probably overly optimistic that things were going to go the direction that we had hoped,” Wells said. “I think most people who really think it through will agree we’re doing the right thing.
“We would have probably started (in school) and then stopped.”
Wells thinks most people are close to someone – either a friend or family – who’s been affected by the virus.