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Mr. Laundra's State of the District 10/1/2020
Mr. Laundra's State of the District 10/1/2020
Andrea Marken
Thursday, October 01, 2020

Good evening Sand Creek!  I’m Steve Laundra, the Superintendent at Sand Creek Community Schools.  I want to take a few moments of your time tonight to keep you up to date and informed on the current status of the 2020-21 school year.

Let me start out by saying that while we are off to a successful start of the school year, it hasn’t come without its fair share of challenges, some of which we’ve been able to address and improve, and some of which are still a work in progress.

In the past few days, we’ve received a fair amount of parental feedback related to Governor Whitmer’s recent executive order that requires all K-5 students to wear a facemask at all times, including in their classrooms.  While wearing masks in elementary classrooms was a strong recommendation in our previous executive order, starting this Monday, October 5th, elementary students will be required to wear facemasks inside their individual classrooms.  Every school district in the State of Michigan (Public, Private and Charter) must comply with the new mandatory elementary face mask order.  The decision to make masks mandatory in Michigan elementary classrooms is not up to local school districts.  We must comply with this new order. 

Some of our students and parents are struggling with adjusting to the way Sand Creek is delivering traditional curriculum using non-traditional delivery systems.  Our teachers and support staff are experimenting and struggling with these same new and non-traditional delivery systems, and they need to be given time to refine and improve them.  Yes, Sand Creek Schools spent a lot of time, energy and money this summer to become a one to one Chromebook school, to train on the Google Classroom platform and to train on effectively teaching students in a virtual setting.  Although these intense trainings put our school ahead of many other school districts, we are looking for practical ways to be as effective and efficient as we were in our normal domain.  I can say beyond a shadow of doubt that our teachers and support staff will continue to pursue improving their instructional delivery systems to better educate our students while following the COVID-19 protocols and executive orders from the governor’s office.  This is a HUGE challenge and it will remain a huge challenge in the months to come.  To improve our situation, we all need to continue to being patient and understanding.  The logistics of educating K-12 students during the COVID-19 pandemic are complicated and immense. Since progress reports were released last Friday,  along with the new executive order mandating K-5 facemasks in classrooms, some parents are inquiring about wanting to switch their student’s instructional method from face to face (F2F) to virtual.  While this is possible and fairly seamless at the JH/HS building, it is much more complicated to do at the elementary school.  While all teachers in the JH/HS building are teaching both F2F students and virtual students at the same time, our elementary classroom teachers are assigned to one delivery system or the other.  The reason this looks different at the JH/HS than it does at the elementary has to do with state teacher certification regulations.  Teachers with elementary teaching certificates are certified to teach all subjects and grade levels in grades K-5.  On the contrary, teachers with 6-12 teaching certification can only teach in their specific subject areas.  Due to the existing certification regulations, our COVID-19 safety concerns related to minimizing the mixing of established cohort groups and the learning choices our parents made, we were able to assign our K-5 teachers to teach either F2F or virtually, but not both.  This is the reason we’ve been allowing JH/HS parents to switch their students from F2F to virtual, and not allowing elementary parent to do the same.  Changing the elementary dynamics of F2F & virtual classroom sections would potentially require us to re-assign numerous teachers and potentially change teacher assignments for some of our elementary students.  This is not true at the JH/HS.

While facemask requirements and instructional delivery commitments may be the two main parent concerns, JH/HS students and parents are also struggling to learn and adjust to as many as eight different teachers per student doing things eight different ways.  Some F2F parents favor seeing those classroom settings being more traditional as opposed to Google Classroom based.  Some virtual parents are concerned about their students not feeling like they’re part of the school, and that they’re not getting enough teacher attention and support.  Due the F2F to virtual student ratios at the elementary, some split grade classrooms had to be created. Logistically, this is the only way we could meet the needs of our students and parents.  When surveyed this past summer, our parents were very clear about three things.

  • They wanted a face to face learning option and a virtual learning option.
  • They wanted students to work with Sand Creek teachers only.
  • They wanted Sand Creek Community Schools’ curriculum, not a 3rd party education vendor curriculum.

While all three of these wants and desires were accomplished, all three are very challenging tasks for our administration, faculty and support staff.  So how are the Sand Creek administrators, teachers and support staff doing?  Like the entire nation, we’re feeling extremely stretched and stressed out, we’re feeling like we’re working twice as hard as normal, but only achieving half of what we used to.  Some are concerned about their health and the health of others.  Everyone is longing for the day we can return to normal, and we’re all wondering when that day will come.  But most of all, we all want what’s best for our students & parents, and we want our community to be satisfied and proud of the job Sand Creek Community Schools is doing. 

The one and only constant throughout this pandemic is the fact that you better be ready to react and change at a moment’s notice.  We’re seeing new executive orders on a daily basis.  That’s one of the main reasons I’m addressing you all tonight.  It’s just as important for parents and students know where the school stands as it is for the school to know where you stand.  We pride ourselves on the fact that we have always listened to each other, complimented each other and worked with each other before making judgements about one another.  That’s the stage we’re in right now.

Me?   Am I worried about the decisions we’re making on the fly and how they’re effecting families and student learning?  Yes I am.  Am I worried about how these decisions will effect parent perception and student enrollment?  Yes I am.  Am I ready to throw in the towel?  Absolutely not!  Some are saying to me, “I bet you wished you would have retired a year earlier.”  Honestly, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Leaving this place in the middle of a pandemic unknown to our generations would have stressed me out and guilted me out far beyond being here dealing with it. That stated, I’m glad to be here guiding us through these unprecedented times. On a positive note, these trying times are making my final months go fast.  Until that time however, I promise you that you will get my best effort until my final day is logged.

In the near future, I will, be asking our parents to respond to a few questions.  Please be prepared to answer this question.

“When you made your instructional learning plan choices for your children (F2F or Virtual) in August, if you would have known then what you know today, which of the statements below is most accurate?

  • I would’ve chosen F2F learning instead of Virtual learning.
  • I would’ve chosen Virtual learning instead of F2F learning.
  • I would have made the same decision.

If you choose #1 or #2, you will be asked why. Click here to take the survey

In closing, I’m extremely proud of our community and our school district at this time.  We are Sand Creek, and that stands for a lot.  It stands for outstanding parents and students.  It stands for dedicated administrators, teachers and support staff members.  And it stands for the country-strong education Sand Creek Community Schools has been providing for nearly 100 years.  I ask for your continued constructive input, your continued patience, and your continued understanding as we continue to work on making K-12 education at Sand Creek the best it can be for our students. 

Thank you, good night, God bless & GO AGGIES!