Nothing normal: JPS working to create a plan for 2020-21

Jamestown High School building.jpg
Jamestown Public School officials are waiting for directives from the Governor's Office and Department of Public Instruction to set new guidelines, following the COVID-19 pandemic, for the upcoming school year. John M. Steiner / The Sun

While students might be done studying for the school year, Jamestown Public Schools administrators are doing more studying than ever and they are coming up with the same answer every time:


"Even though we are roughly two months away from the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, there are still, unfortunately, many unknowns related to the pandemic and the impact on schools," said Rob Lech, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent.

"The reality is we simply do not know what the environment in Jamestown or the State of North Dakota will look like even in a few short weeks. With that said, however, we are continually assessing the current environment and reflecting on the distance learning experience from the 2019-2020 school year."

In March, after North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum mandated the cancellation of all in-class, on-campus meetings, JPS transitioned to an online learning platform. The district finished the school year virtually on May 22. The fluidity of the health crisis led to shifting plans for a Class of 2020 graduation ceremony and is now a point of continual reassessment moving toward August.


"We need to be both reactive and proactive in this situation," Lech said. "We need to be reactive in the sense that we have guidelines and directives that come from the Governor’s Office and the Department of Public Instruction that we must follow. We are, however, being as proactive as we can to try and shape those policies."

Lech said one way he is trying to be proactive is by serving on a statewide task force on reentry with the purpose of creating recommendations for guiding principles of any state-level re-entry guidelines.

The superintendent is not alone in his quest for proactivity.

"We also have a group of educators in our Teacher Leadership Academy who are going to be conducting a series of focus groups in the next few weeks to gather perspectives from students, parents, and teachers across the elementary, middle school, and high school levels," Lech said. "We are hoping to use this perspective and state guidelines to be very purposeful in creating our own re-entry plan that focuses on the education of our students, but also keeps our students, staff, families and community safe."

Lech said the district is also planning to put together a re-entry task force once guidance has been provided to create a plan for re-entry. The work of the task force will be guided significantly by the results of the focus groups, protocols and expectations outlined by the state and Department of Public Instruction. JPS will also be conscious of county and state health partners and common-sense best practices.

"Parents, staff, and the community can expect for us to follow the guidelines we are given, continue to work with county health officials, follow protocols in mitigating the spread of infectious disease, communicate in as timely a manner as possible related to re-entry plans and keep our focus on how to best provide a high-quality education for our students regardless of the conditions and circumstances," Lech said.

Gerber is a sports writer for the Jamestown Sun.
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