A Bittersweet Spring Break

A Bittersweet Spring Break Message
Posted on 03/04/2021

We are quickly approaching the one-year mark since COVID-19 first shut down our schools. I recall a Sunday afternoon meeting with district leaders to discuss what was happening and the reports that we were hearing. Our students were set to return from spring break when it was abruptly extended before we discovered that the rest of the school year was about to look completely different. There is no doubt that history has been made. South Washington County Schools (SoWashCo), staff, students and families can be proud of the efforts and hard work that have gotten us through the past year. We are not acknowledging perfection, but certainly the dedication that has gone into supporting our students. 


While in the middle of planning for educating 18,000 students during a pandemic, we were also faced with the death of George Floyd last May. Our own students challenged us to respond to the national discussions of race and racism. They shared personal stories of uncomfortable things happening in our schools, came up with ideas for us to improve and provided solutions to make all students feel welcome. Their voices directly led to the board-approved racial equity resolution that directed SoWashCo to take action steps toward equity in our schools. Our students continue to share stories and openly discuss what is occurring on social media, in our schools and in our communities. I am reminded of the continued work we must do to understand how history continues to affect the present. 


Everyday, we ask our students to seek out information, to gain a deeper understanding on important topics, to use critical thinking skills, to be open to various perspectives and to develop empathy. As adults, we must do the same. It is clear that we have work to do to live up to the expectations of our students and to make the world a better place for everyone. 


As of today, the trial for Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of killing George Floyd, is scheduled to begin on March 8. We must remember that the feelings of sorrow, outrage and dismay have not gone away. Students, families and staff may hear new details throughout the trial that are upsetting or traumatic. At the end of this article, I have provided some resources to help you talk with your child about traumatic events and violence. 


I know many of you, or perhaps mostly our students, are looking forward to spring break. As a reminder, there is no school next week, March 8 through March 12. I hope you will find time to relax or spend some quality time with loved ones. Traditionally, spring break is a time when many families choose to travel out-of-state or even out of the country. We strongly encourage everyone to follow health and safety precautions and avoid any unnecessary travel. If a student comes to school sick, they will immediately be sent home. Families should call their child’s school attendance line to report an absence. Thank you for your understanding and for making it possible for students to return to school. 


We look forward to welcoming students in grades 6 through 12 back to in-person learning four days a week starting Thursday, March 18. With your help, and by following established health and safety measures, we will be able to keep students in this learning model for the rest of the school year. There is also no school on March 15 for grades K-12, and no school on March 16 through 17 for grades 6-12.


Thank you for the sacrifices your family has made to support our work as a school district.  We are strong and together, we are stronger! Have a wonderful spring break. 


With gratitude,

Julie's Signature

Julie Nielsen

Superintendent

Resources During the Derek Chauvin Trial