A behind-the-scenes look at how LZ admin have been working through an unusual school year start.
September 21, 2020
“You know, it’s been kind of like building a ship while you’re sailing it,” said Erin DeLuga, principal, about starting the school year remotely and preparing for students to return to school in the coming weeks. “None of this is intuitive to anyone because no one’s ever lived through a pandemic so we’re just trying to be proactive and problem solve, to make sure that we’re keeping the safety of our students and staff close at heart as we’re planning for students to return in a hybrid fashion.”
In order to ensure the well-being of everyone in the high school, the building leadership team has been hard at work ensuring that all bases are covered: while DeLuga collaborates with the district in planning and supports high school administration, Ashley Weltler, assistant principal of academics, assessment, and innovation and Peter Nadler, assistant principal of student services, are supporting students by working closely with counselors and service providers. In addition, Ryan Rubenstein, assistant principal of student life and operations, is focusing on the functionality of in-school operations while Andrew Lambert, athletic director, is ensuring athletics are proceeding safely.
This year, instead of planning mostly for curriculum, much of the preparation has been centered around operational and safety planning, says DeLuga, with weekly guidance from Kelley Gallt, superintendent. Those instructions are then delivered to building leadership teams and staff, who make necessary adjustments to lesson plans, physical arrangements, and health precautions.
But the most important part of the process, according to Rubenstein, comes with fine-tuning the details.
“We’re all just trying to dot the i’s and cross the t’s to make sure that we have tried to think of every possible thing that could happen and plan for those things,” Rubenstein said. “ It’s super simple to move baskets around and make sure people are six feet apart, but there’s certain things that come up on a day to day basis where we’re like, ‘Oh, we need to think about this.’ Less than an hour ago, when we were moving some desks around upstairs, there was concern that some of the left-handed desks were against the wall, meaning you can’t get into the desk. And that’s not something I thought over while we were moving desks, so I’ll be up there this afternoon trying to fix that.”
With so many unpredictable factors to account for, Weltler says that “we’re all just trying to channel the stress of it all into positivity. We know that things are not always going to go exactly according to plan — isn’t that sort of true in life, too — so all we can do is stay calm and work together.”
Rubenstein also agrees that teamwork is a necessity when it comes to such a large-scale operation.
“None of us feel like we’re on an island,” Rubenstein said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked down to Mrs. DeLuga or Ms. Weltler’s office, to go, ‘Hey, I got this problem,’ so we can all figure it out together.”
In addition to the work administrators have been putting in to prepare for the school year, teachers and division heads have also been doing behind-the-scenes learning to re-educate themselves on the new face of education.
“A lot of us have said it feels like our first year almost because we’re learning so many new things and everything is so different,” Lauren Katzman, literacy division head, said. “We’ve had instructional coaches help teachers with different aspects of blended learning such as how to build community and how to give students voice and choice. I also read three different books over the summer and took a graduate course in blended and online teaching so that I felt more confident in how lessons should be designed and what technology I could use, so I could help teachers help students.”
Above all, the focus of everything teachers and administrators have been doing is to benefit students, says DeLuga, especially with a return to the building right around the corner as hybrid learning policies are set into place.
“My hope is that we’re able to establish a safe and caring learning environment for students,” DeLuga said. “We’re also trying to make sure to keep students’ social-emotional health in mind because all of this is taking a big toll on our kids and we worry about you guys. We want to make sure that you guys are okay, and when I’m going to all these Zooms where I watch you guys learn in your rooms, I just look at my own daughters and I think about how hard and difficult it is sometimes.”
Despite the problems and uncertainties that come with these times, DeLuga encourages everyone to remain patient and be kind.
“Everyone is going through something they’ve never been through before, whether it be parents trying to help their students learn while navigating their own jobs or students who have been in the rooms for six months now,” Deluga said. “This is not normal. Everything has shifted gears, but it doesn’t mean that we have to lose the humanity of looking out for each other, loving each other, caring for each other.”