May 4, 2020
Dear Kyrene Families, students, staff and community,
It’s amazing how quickly we go from one way of life to another in the blink of an eye. It seems that our response to COVID-19 happened in a second. One day we are living our life in a certain way and the next day it is turned upside down. This global pandemic has historically changed our economy, use of technology, schooling, and how we physically interact with each other. All within a few weeks.
Our parents have suddenly found themselves responsible for overseeing their children’s education from home. This is a substantial challenge to be facing on top of all other stresses due to this pandemic. My hope is that our parents, educators and policymakers will realize how important school is and why it must evolve once our children return to our campuses.
I am proud of the efforts of our students and their families in helping us slow the spread of COVID-19. We understand the deep disruption the pandemic has had on everyone’s lives and economic wellbeing.
Acts of Kindness
I also believe this experience has further illustrated what a precious resource are teachers are. Tomorrow is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and our Kyrene educators are more appreciated than ever. We love and appreciate our teachers day in and day out, but during this crisis, we have seen shining examples of the commitment, care, and compassion our educators have for our Kyrene community, beyond the classroom.
While teachers are so grateful for the opportunity to connect with students online, it just doesn’t have that same in-person touch. That’s why Kyrene de la Estrella 3rd grade teachers Cory Walker and Kerry Durazo did something extra special for their classrooms. They drafted hand-written, personal notes to each of their students. Imagine being a child isolated at home and getting such an unexpected message in the mail. I know that personal gesture will mean a great deal to those Kyrene kids.
I have always believed that teachers are super heroes, and now I have proof! Kyrene P.E. teacher Jeremy Dittrich donned his cape and hero mask to deliver paper packets of learning materials directly to the doorsteps of our Kyrene families. This goes to show that our educators are committed to serving our students in any way possible, even if, under the circumstances, it is not in the classroom or on the field.
Teachers and staff all across the District are collecting food and funds for the Kyrene Family Resource Center (FRC), to ensure families that may be suffering economic hardship do not have to worry about basic necessities, such as food. One personal fundraiser led by Kyrene de la Mirada and Kyrene del Cielo certified school counselor Clarissa Duran-Chavez generated nearly $800 for the FRC!
The Kyrene de las Manitas team also took up a collection to help serve students at home. Manitas teachers gathered extra classroom supplies to build supply kits for students who may need those materials at home. They made enough kits to not only provide supplies for Manitas students but also for children of families visiting the FRC. The effort was part of the Manitas commitment to carry out “100 Acts of Kindness” as part of the school’s No Place for Hate Initiative.
For teachers at Kyrene de la Paloma, it wasn’t enough to support students in the classroom. They went out of their way to support a parent on the front lines of this pandemic. When 3rd grade teacher Christa Hulburt learned one of her students had a father working in the COVID-19 Unit of Chandler Regional Hospital, she took up a collection to provide that hospital unit with meals, to help sustain them through this fight. Teachers and other generous members of the Paloma staff raised enough to serve three meals to that hospital team, filling not only their stomachs but their hearts as well.
This is what kindness looks like.
These stories represent just a small sample of the many ways our Kyrene teachers and staff are going out of their way to make the world a little brighter. View my May video message for more of these incredible acts of kindness.
An Envolving Educational Landscape
We all long to return to the normal rhythm of work and school, but the question is: when and how to do so safely? It is a matter of balancing the benefits and the risks.
While the first emphasis during this pandemic crisis was responding to the immediate emergency and mitigating the impact on our students, the work now calls for anticipating what will ensue. Our educational landscape will be forever changed in ways we are only beginning to understand.
Kyrene is already preparing for those shifts, in anticipation of school reopening in the fall. We are awaiting guidance from the State regarding any operational and safety guidelines that will need to be employed for the safe return of students and staff. As this guidance is provided, we will keep you up to date of the developments regarding our back-to-school plan.
Returning to in-person classes this fall requires prudent and careful planning. Our decisions will prioritize the health and safety of our campuses and community, while maintaining our focus on delivering a high-quality education that meets the aspirations and expectations of our students. Throughout, Kyrene School District will continue to be an engaged, constructive, and positive partner in our community.
As we move forward with plans for next semester, we will continue to communicate with you and let you know of additional steps we will take to allow for everyone’s safe return.
We thank you for partnering with us during this difficult process as we know much of the role of supporting student learning has been placed on parents. It has been quite an unanticipated ending to a great year in Kyrene, but I know we can still finish strong.
Jan Vesely, Ed.D.