A Summer Reverie

 Typically, there is time in the summer to catch up, reflect on the past school year, and make preparations for the next school year. There is an established rhythm to things and time to catch a breath. Last summer wasn’t like that at all, as we were wrapping up voluntary remote learning after the school closure that began around Spring Break. We knew we needed to step up the rigor of and support for remote learning. We also wanted to do all we could to assure a safe return to face-to-face instruction. Summer was filled with crafting the innocuous sounding “Return to Learn Plan” that had many layers and details and was, of course, “Subject to Change.”


Of course, some of the most contentious conversations revolved around face coverings and for whom they should be required, if at all. We tried to consistently follow reliable medical advice within the bounds of practicality. We followed quarantine determinations from Warren County Health Services, which, in turn, consulted the Iowa Department of Health and Center for Disease Control guidelines.


Throughout the various changes in mask requirements and schedules that we had during the year, we continued to try to balance three important priorities: keeping students and staff safe by working to limit exposure, having students receive as much in person instruction as possible while supporting staff, and providing quality remote instruction for those who needed it.


We were largely successful because of the hard work of our support staff and teachers in all departments and buildings; the planning, support, and oversight of the board and administration; the desire of students to be back in school and have some normalcy, and the flexibility and understanding of students’ families. I have said it many times: we really had a great year! I also feel that people extended more grace and expressed more appreciation than in a typical school year, and that was very heartening as we worked through challenges.


Now the state has had very low positivity rates and reduced hospitalizations for a sustained period of time, and vaccines have been readily available for those who want them (age 12 and older). There are still places where the virus remains a greater concern, and variants have developed, but June 2021 feels much different than June 2020.


As we look forward to next year, we anticipate and hope for a much more “normal” year. As we do that, though, I hope we are able to hang on to some of the lessons of the pandemic:


  1. We can make the best of a tough situation and overcome challenges when we work together.
  2. Being able to go to school and go to work is something to be thankful for.
  3. We can do things more than one way and do them well.
  4. We can be respectful of people’s different circumstances, choices, and beliefs.
  5. A kind word or expression of gratitude is very powerful.


Those are just a few of many things we learned this last year. As I wrap up my seventh year in the district at the end of this month, I know I have never been prouder of our students, staff, and families or more honored to serve the district. We can always get better, and we will work hard to do that, but I really appreciate what everyone did this last challenging year.


I hope everyone has a safe and happy Independence Day weekend and enjoys the rest of the summer. Irving Elementary will be back in session in July, the first true year-round calendar in several years as we had HVAC issues and then the pandemic to deal with. Before you know it, everyone will be back at it, and I know we will have an outstanding 2021-2022 school year! Take care, everyone, and thanks again.


Superintendent Art Sathoff