With the spread of COVID now ebbing, Superintendent of Schools Laurie Hunter is thinking beyond the pandemic towards a robust school year.
“It’s a great start,” Hunter said six weeks into the school year. “The staff have come back excited, the kids are happy to be engaged in their schools.”
The auditorium was full on Back to School night, but behind the excitement, Hunter acknowledges the hard work of emerging from two years of disconnection among the school communities.
“We are monitoring the data and where there are gaps, we are closing them,” she said, particularly among the youngest readers who have not been in a classroom for two years.
“We are identifying those needs, providing support, and making great progress,” she said.
Another matter demanding attention is the effect of the pandemic on the students’ social adjustment, saying that middle school students have spent almost all their time in a virtual environment.
“They haven’t had the same experience that other kids have had,” said Hunter.
Hunter praised the teachers, particularly since emerging from the two-year hiatus was all new.
“They’ve never done this before,” she said.
But a silver lining has been the focus on mental health and bringing the school community together. And the tech skills exhibited by the student body which she said are “off the charts.”
“We are a stronger system for it,” said Hunter.
Hunter said one big push this fall is in the area of diversity, equality and inclusion.
“Our messaging is about making every person feel welcome, on belonging,” she said. “That is a priority and our new focus.”
The new DEI director is drawing up a five-year plan outlining goals and promoting dialogue.
Another initiative is beefing up the METCO program, which suffered when Boston families lost contact with Concord schools.
“There were things we felt weren’t working,” said Hunter. “We feel we are in a better place now.”
The Concord-Carlisle School Committee appointed two Boston parents to its membership. Concord is one of only four towns out of 33 that participate in the METCO program to appoint Boston members.
Also, there are now two METCO directors, one in the high school and another for the K-8 system. And a “METCO-focused counselor” is on duty at the high school and the METCO families have their own PTG.
“We listened a lot last spring,” Hunter said.
With options for virtual learning still available, Hunter said this year feels different already. “We are going in the right direction,” she said.