Crystle Nehrmeyer, Superintendent
Teachers at Mountain Vista K-8 School are planning and preparing for the 2020-21 school year! The start of the school year will look different than any school year in our 115 year history as teachers are back in their classrooms, but not in the way we all hoped for. For the most part, they will be teaching to empty classrooms since their students are all at home, online. Although our teachers are glad to be back practicing their tradecraft, they still miss seeing their students face-to-face.
By the time you read this article, the students of the Oracle Elementary School District are a couple of weeks into the 2020-21 school year, which began on August 20. Although the governing board originally voted for the district to provide a hybrid model of both online and in-school instruction, they later voted to opt for online only due to increasing COVID-19 cases in our community as well as the unavailability of equipment and supplies needed for safe opening.
Preparing for the new school year is always a large endeavor, but the global pandemic has added an entirely new level of complexity to the effort. Over several months, district leadership studied the latest guidance on the virus, planned how to keep students safe, surveyed parents on how to best support them and their children, and placed required equipment and supplies on order. Many of these items, such as Chromebooks, cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, lunch carts, plexiglass dividers, touchless dispensers, and faucets for the restrooms are now on backorder due to the quantities needed across our nation. The costs for these items as well as the expense of additional bus monitors, totals about $243K additional to provide online instruction the first quarter and the hybrid model the rest of the year. Unfortunately, our district is only due to get $117K from the Coronavirus Air, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act leaving the shortfall to come out of our normal operating budget in the form of cuts in other programs, staffing, or materials.
Just to be clear, there will be a few students coming to campus in-person. Those students include less than 20 preschoolers whose parents opted to send them to school, and those students the state has mandated we provide on-campus support for. Examples include (but are not limited to), those with disabilities that require in-person support, those who need medical and mental health services delivered by qualified healthcare providers, and young students who do not have a caregiver at home during school hours. These students will largely still be participating in school via online learning but will be supervised in an area where we can maintain their safety and security.
The current plan approved by the governing board calls for instruction to continue online until the end of the first quarter on October 2. Prior to that date, the board will look at current Arizona data benchmarks guiding school reopening decisions which look at new cases, people testing positive for COVID-19, and those visiting hospitals with COVID-like illness.
We don’t know yet how this school year will end. We do know that our teachers and staff will do their very best to ensure that our students are not short-changed. Yes, online instruction is not the same as in-person learning. But, our educational professionals have been and are still busy finding ways to leverage technology to make learning relevant and exciting. We are committed to preserving our traditions, making online learning as user-friendly for parents and students as possible, and most important, keeping kids and our staff members safe.
When people ask me “why families should choose Mountain Vista K-8 School” over alternative online options, I answer, “Because we are Mountain Vista.” Our model of instruction is adapting to our changing times, but our commitment to your child’s success is as strong as ever. Although we couldn’t plan for a global pandemic, our motto, “Small Town Roots, Global Expectations” continues to remind us that our objective remains the same—keep kids safe, provide exceptional opportunities, hire the best staff, and prepare our students for a successful life.
Thank you to all our supporters in the community that are part of this incredibly worthwhile objective. Together, we can do this.