Yesterday Governor DeSantis announced his plans to begin reopening the state. Although the stay-at-home orders and business closures were handed down quickly back in March, the reopening of our state will be a gradual, conservative process to ensure continued safety for our citizens.
Phase I of the reopening process lifted some of the restrictions on retail businesses and restaurants. However, the majority of the previous orders remain in place, including guidelines prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people in enclosed spaces. Given these continued restrictions, and guidance that individuals are “safer at home”, Holmes District Schools will continue to follow the remote learning/working model that we began in March. Employees will continue to work from home whenever possible for the coming weeks. We will continue this model through the end of the regular school calendar on May 28.
I could not be prouder of the way our employees, students, and parents have risen to the challenge of implementing this new method of learning and working. Our staff was given approximately 2 days to develop and submit an instructional continuity plan to the Department of Education. While our employees had plans for relaxation during Spring Break, the necessities of preparing for remote learning caused the vast majority of them to spend the week hard at work on the specifics of how they would begin teaching their students the following week. I am pleased that we were able to begin fully implementing our plan the week following Spring Break. We have been in contact with 100% of our student population. Our district has provided paper learning packets to approximately 41% of our student population. These numbers have caught the attention of lawmakers and provided us the opportunity to advocate for providing our rural areas with faster, more reliable internet connectivity. We have distributed technology to our students and teachers, including Chromebooks, laptops, and mobile hotspots, as we have been able to secure those devices. Additionally, we have worked to provide meals to our students. During this time, our staff has served over 45,500 breakfast and lunch meals to our students.
During times of trial, small towns and communities are known for pulling together, so it’s no surprise that has been the case during this pandemic. We’ve witnessed an outpouring of love from our employees who have gone the extra mile to connect with their students, whether by handwritten letters mailed home, Zoom meetings, YouTube videos or social media. Our teachers have come up with new and innovative ways to present content and have embraced the role that technology can play in teaching. As a result of this experience, I believe our classrooms and teaching will be transformed when we return to our physical school buildings. We’ve seen our schools and communities show creativity in honoring our graduating seniors, and we are committed to provide our seniors with traditional graduation ceremonies. More details on those plans will be announced on May 8. More than ever though, these challenging times have cemented the fact that our schools are truly families! I am confident that we will come through this pandemic stronger than ever! May God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America!
Terry L. Mears, Superintendent