TUHSD Superintendent Mendivil on closure of schools due to pandemic

 

In the weeks leading up to the eventual state-wide school closures, I – like so many others in leadership positions – grappled with how closure would affect our students, families, teachers, and staff. In conjunction with our sister districts, Tempe Elementary and Kyrene, we decided that it was in the best interest of all that we keep our schools closed for an additional week beyond our spring break. Three days after that announcement, Governor Ducey and Superintendent Hoffman announced state-wide closures, and we have followed their guidance and recommendations since that time.

Throughout this crisis, my primary concern has been for our students, as well as our TUHSD families, teachers, and staff members. My leadership team worked to ensure that students were “held harmless” during the shift to online learning and that they were provided resources to continue their education. In the early weeks of the shutdown, TUHSD distributed approximately 2,400 laptops to students who did not otherwise have access to technology at home. This ensured that they were able to continue their learning journey and attend virtual classes, office hours, and other group activities.

Our challenges have been specific to the needs of being an urban/suburban high school district. While our elementary and middle school peers were able to be nimble in meeting the needs of their students, it is worth remembering that each of our teachers have five times the amount of students to plan for, worry about, and teach. Our pivot to online learning was an amazing effort by all involved. Our TUHSD teachers are, simply put, the best of the best.

This has been a huge shift for all of us at TUHSD. I’m proud to share that our community has made the very best of a bad situation. Entire departments shifted focus rapidly to meet needs – not just those of our school community, but also the wider Tempe and Guadalupe areas. In the days after our initial school closure announcement, we began serving “Grab & Go” meals at three of our seven campuses, eventually adding a fourth distribution location. All together, our incredible Food & Nutrition team served approximately 75,500 meals to community members 18 years and younger.

It took an enormous amount of preparation, communication, and collaboration to ensure that these efforts were enacted in a safe and efficient manner. Our families were patient with us as we worked out the details, and our teachers and staff put herculean efforts into planning safe, efficient ways for our students to continue to engage and learn.

There are many unknowns facing us in the future, and I will continue to solicit feedback from our community as we move forward. The guidelines issued by the CDC, State of Arizona, and Maricopa County will guide our decision making as we determine a safe course of action over the next few months.

Due to the events of COVID-19, our community is more prepared than ever to embrace online learning, and to meet the individual needs of our students. Planning is underway for a variety of learning options and I look forward to keeping our community informed. We know that education may look different in the fall, and in the future, but we are committed to embracing change, remaining positive, and continuing to put our students first.

 

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