Aug. 21, 2020
Ray-Pec Parent Community,

I had the pleasure of welcoming back our Ray-Pec staff teams this past week by visiting each building and discussing our current reality and the upcoming school year. The Ray-Pec Board of Education and I know you are very proud of our teacher, leadership, and support teams at each of our schools and across this district. You have every reason to be. Our team is dedicated and committed to making this year the very best year possible, and will be ready to welcome students to school for either an in-person or virtual learning experience. 

As we move closer to next week’s opening, I want to share a few items with you.

The Why

Quite simply, the “why” of going back to school in an in-person or virtual format is focused on one answer: the students. Our system is as ready as it can be for the first day. Our county health department has given the green light to opening schools on August 24. And our teachers, support staff and building administration look forward to having our students back in-person or in-ViPR. Throughout this reentry process, we sought the help and direction from so many across our community to help us plan and think through the issues to get us where we are today. The Board of Education and I want to thank all of those parents, and teachers and administrators who helped with some very difficult issues. 

The What Next

I wish I had a crystal ball that could tell us with certainty about what will occur during the 2020-2021 school year. However, we just do not know. While I am sorry that I cannot provide you with certainty, I can provide you with clarity. 

Here is what we are clear on. Our intent all along has been two-fold. One, we want to provide an in-person learning experience for as many students/parents who want it for as long as we can, while providing a reasonable risk-reduction strategy for all. Two, we want to provide a rigorous and relevant virtual instruction experience for those students/parents who are desirous of that experience. An incredible amount of work has been accomplished in an extremely short period of time. We have put together a summary of much of the work that has been done and the protocols that have been developed to help advance those objectives. 

While we have made operational changes to reduce risk of virus transmission inside the classroom, we cannot control what the virus does outside of the classroom. We will remain vigilant, looking at data indicators that will guide us as to if and when we may need to implement other strategies. In cooperation with the Cass County Health Department and several Ray-Pec teachers who volunteered their time to research what other school districts and organizations across the country are doing, a set of indicators has been developed that will help us determine when the time may be right to discuss with our Board of Education other strategies for in-person learning. This is not a set of “if-then” statements. Rather, it is a set of indicators that will trigger additional conversations with our Board of Education, administration and the CCHD about the most appropriate ways to continue the teaching and learning process should our community health conditions change.

Please be prepared for transitions…

You need to know about the potential for frequent transitions between in-person and distance learning for those students who selected the in-person option. We will default to the guidance of the CCHD to direct us if a positive case of COVID-19 should occur in our schools. The CCHD will guide us as to who needs to be either isolated or quarantined, and for how long, in each positive case. To our parents who work outside of the home, there is the potential for classroom, school or district closures and transition to distance learning throughout the school year. Please think about personal contingency planning should a classroom, school or district closure become necessary.

Our COVID-19 response protocol

We have had a few questions about what protocols will be followed under various scenarios. We have developed a COVID-19 response protocol document which will assist in giving us guidance on how to proceed.

Our communication commitments 

We made the commitment early-on in this situation to share with our parent and staff communities information of each positive COVID-19 case among students and staff within 24 hours of us being notified by the CCHD. I do not know what commitments to their communities other school districts have made. However, for Ray-Pec, we want to make sure our parents, students and staff have the full picture of positive cases. It is important to understand that our communication will include positive cases of students and staff as confirmed by the CCHD.

Additionally, we will also send out classroom-specific, or activity-specific, emails if the CCHD has requested classroom seating charts, class rosters, team or activity rosters, or bus ridership lists as part of contact tracing related to a positive case involving someone who is not an employee or student. In those instances, the District will notify the impacted group that some individuals may be contacted by the CCHD. The CCHD will have the responsibility for notifying parents, students and staff for the need to quarantine under these circumstances.

This is a complex and ever-changing situation. When it comes to communication, we want to err on the side of providing what some people might think is too much information, rather than not enough. It is a delicate balance, but our approach is one that we feel our community expects and appreciates.

In closing, I want to acknowledge a truth about the current reality we face. The truth is none of us signed up for this. No parent, guardian, care-giver, student, teacher, support team member, Board member, administrator, nor anyone else in our community feels that trying to live life during a pandemic is something that we want to do. However, we all know that our current reality is not likely to change any time soon. How we face that reality, and the mindset we carry, will determine how well we come out of this on the other side. This year will be a year that is filled with uncertainties. We must continue to grant patience and grace to one another, as we are all trying to do our very best at navigating our current challenges and realities. One of the many qualities that attracted me to this community was the quality of the people, from the first time I met our students (see my July 1 email to you), to the parents, staff and community that we call home. The road through this school year may not always be a smooth one. However, the patience and grace that we extend to one another will help make the bumpy parts of the road more manageable for everyone. The Ray-Pec Board of Education and I thank you for that consideration.

Thank you for trusting your children with the Ray-Pec School District,

Mike Slagle

I am passionately driven by the belief that Everyone Is Created To Flourish