Top 10 Highlights of the 2019-2020 School Year #2 – The response of staff, students, parents, and the community to COVID-19 pandemic and a tornado
Posted on 05/20/2020
Photo: Schooling at homeWe are reviewing the Top #10 highlights of 2019-2020 as we wind down to the end of a very unusual but successful school year. The highlight at #2 is the response of staff, students, parents, and the community to the COVID-19 pandemic and a tornado. March came in like a lion in 2020, and the lion decided to stick around for a while. The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to our community in March that no one imagined when the school year began last August. Then, we added the destruction of a major tornado that ripped through our neighborhoods on Easter Sunday. It was a memorable end to the school year, but tragedy brought out the formidable fighting spirit of the Hamilton County community.

With schools closed, teachers were finding new ways to reach children and continue to teach them from home. There were Zoom remote class sessions where teachers and children could connect, and classmates could see one another again on their computer screens. Teachers held FaceTime calls with students to answer questions and to check on children to see how they were doing during the pandemic and tornado experience. Teachers became YouTube sensations making videos to keep their school children engaged though everyone was getting together from their own homes.

School bus drivers, school nutrition workers, and volunteers packed meals for children and formed makeshift drive-in services at schools to make sure children had the nutrition needed while schools were closed. Transportation workers and bus drivers put together routes in the community to deliver meals in neighborhoods where children may not have been able to get to a school location providing meals. It was a monumental undertaking of a project that had never been tried before but came together in just a few weeks.

District and community volunteers pulled together 3-D printers from across the world's largest collection of eLabs found in our schools to make thousands of protective shields for healthcare workers in the area.

Children were adjusting to a new way of learning and not getting to see their school friends every day. Still, from Pre-K to seniors children worked on their computer, completed worksheets, tuned into YouTube videos, or learned important concepts from PBS classes on television or the internet. The inconvenience of a pandemic would not stand in the way of the children's thirst to get.

The new teachers in front of children each day, helping them to learn school lessons were the parents. Many took on the task while also working from home, trying to keep up with the demands of their job. The families forged on while schools were closed to keep the progress of children moving forward. Dining room tables became classrooms and classmates were now also siblings as learning continued. Parents are always a child's first teacher, but now moms, dads, grandmothers, or older siblings were thrust into the role of classroom monitor to make sure children connected with teachers, and the learning continued.

The community came together to provide computer equipment for children who did not have devices at home. Community organizations expanded the school district message to parts of the community that are often difficult to reach. Businesses provided internet connections across the community and Wi-Fi hotspots to make sure children could be connected to distance learning.

All of this came together as many battled power outages and damaged homes due to the tornado that showed us the fierceness of our 2020 March lion. Neighbors checked on one another, provided relief and resources, the district opened relief centers at CSLA and East Hamilton School, and we shared prayers with a community digging out from under the debris left in the storm's wake.

The end of the 2019-2020 school year was truly a time when we learned that we are #BetterTogether.

Top 10 for 2019-2020

#10 – Six new Future Ready Institutes added along with new branded community partners
# 9 – 20 schools receive a grant from Usher and Little Kids Rock
# 8 – Dr. LeAndrea Ware named Tennessee Principal of the Year, and Howard honored by Bill Gates
# 7 - Office of Innovation and Choice begins with HCS recognized as a global leader in Fab Labs
# 6 – Five schools in Hamilton County Schools earn STEM School Designation from the state
# 5 – Student Success Plans in Hamilton County Schools featured in Harvard Publication
# 4 – Superintendent Dr. Johnson recognized as a Leader To Learn From by Education Week
# 3 - Hamilton County Schools produces historic gains in academic growth and achievement
# 2 - The response of staff, students, parents, and the community to the COVID-19 pandemic and a tornado.