As a year unlike any other comes to an end, reflection seems to be second nature to the majority of the members of the school community. Students, parents, staff, administration, and even the New York State Department of Education have acknowledged the difficulties of this year’s unique circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic. In this, the challenges of remote learning are arguably unmatched by any obstacle that J-DHS has faced before.
In the midst of the global pandemic, most students reported the symptoms of remote learning to resemble that of an illness: physical and mental strain, fatigue, loss of motivation, and so on. Still, J-D progressed and made many advancements, and whether academically, athletically, or extracurricularlarly, this year brought many unprecedented opportunities.
“There were countless challenges faced throughout the year. Providing the resources necessary for teachers to be able to meet the needs of students and the resources students needed to be successful was difficult. No doubt, though, the tragic death of one of our students was the greatest challenge,” Superintendent Peter Smith recalls as he reflects on the shooting that resulted in the death of former student Judson Albahm, who was anticipated to graduate from J-D this year.
As the school transitioned from the hybrid to in-person learning model this past spring (while still leaving students the option to learn remotely), J-D set an example for many surrounding school districts on how to efficiently return a school environment to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy. Though inconsistency was prevalent throughout the year, the community stayed strong throughout. “Our school community responded with the best interests of each other in mind, not what was best for individuals. Among other attributes, creativity, perseverance, care, kindness, and an incredible amount of patience was demonstrated as we overhauled how education is traditionally delivered throughout the year,” said Smith.
This year, above all else, J-D persevered. In fact, many consider this year to have been a learning experience in finding out what works and what doesn’t. “Reflecting on significant changes that will stay with us as a result of the pandemic, I think the growth in the use of technology and the skills developed to effectively use technology to enhance teaching and learning will be one of the lasting outcomes of this year,” said Smith.
Out of uncertainty formed new relationships and priorities. “One thing I am very pleased about was the creation of our partnership with the County Executive and the Onondaga County Department of Health. Their support and guidance has been critical to the continued operations of the district throughout the year,” said Smith. Among these operations were biweekly COVID-19 testing opportunities during the hybrid learning model and recently a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up center, which many students and staff participated in to remain safe and healthy throughout the year and stay up to par with COVID-19 guidelines.
Many students are optimistically viewing next year as an opportunity to reclaim the normal high school experience that they missed and many staff to return to a sense of routine in their workday. Smith’s hopes are simple for next year: “that all students and staff remain healthy and safe.”