Superintendent’s Message

August 3, 2020


Dear Leland Families, 

We are excited to share our plan to return to school this fall. Our Return to Learn Task Force, which included staff, teachers, students, parents, board of education members, health department officials, and administrators has been working all summer.  While clearly not a “business as usual” model due to the ongoing pandemic, we have every confidence that the LPS plan outlines a high quality, rigorous, compassionate, and safe learning experience for our students, whether we are in-person or have to remain or return to remote e-learning. 

As you will see outlined below, the timeline for our launch and approval is tight. Our next steps as we move toward September:

- Parent review of the plan
 
- Question and answer virtual town hall meetings tomorrow or Wednesday

- Respond to parent survey before August 7th

- Board work session to review and finalize the plan on August 11

- Superintendent submits the plan to the ISD and State of Michigan for approval before August 15th

- Enrollment forms for Option 1 (LPS in person or remote) or Option 2 (virtual school) due on August 21st

- LPS’s decision to begin school in person on September 8th or to begin the school year at home with our remote, e-learning alternative

•Parent review of the plan 

•Question and answer virtual town hall meetings tomorrow or Wednesday

•Respond to parent survey before August 7th

•Board work session to review and finalize the plan on August 11

•Superintendent submits the plan to the ISD and State of Michigan for approval before August 15th

•Enrollment forms for Option 1 (LPS in person or remote) or Option 2 (virtual school) due on August 21st

•LPS’s decision to begin school in person on September 8th or to begin the school year at home with our remote, e-learning alternative


In addition, if we hope to return to school in person, we all need to be working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by following safety guidelines: wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, avoid large social gatherings, and maintain social distance whenever possible. 

Please visit our website to read a quick summary of our plan or the full plan. The links to the Zoom town halls and the link to the survey are also posted there. 

Once the plan has been approved by the State of Michigan, the final version will be posted on the website. We will hold off as long as possible before making the decision whether to return in person or remotely. This is difficult for everyone, and while it’s extremely hard to live in the land of the unknown, in order to provide the safest educational experience for children, we need to continually monitor the situation. Thank you for your patience, flexibility, and continued support. 

Warmly, 

Stephanie Joseph Long, Superintendent





July 31, 2020

Good Evening, 

Return to School Task Force Plan: Our return to school task force and staff are excited to be finalizing the plan to reopen school on September 8th. Please look for an email with the plan from Jeanne Gross on Monday. To help everyone process the information and ask questions, we are holding virtual Q&A sessions next week by grade levels. The schedule for those meetings: 

  • Tuesday, August 4th - Grades 6-9, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
  • Tuesday, August 4th - Grades 10-12, 7:30 - 8:30 pm
  • Wednesday, August 5th - Grades K-2, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
  • Wednesday, August 5th, Grades 3-5, 7:30 - 8:30 pm

After you have read through the plan and asked questions at our town hall meetings (the Zoom links for these dates will be included in the email on Monday), we will be asking families to complete a survey to help us prepare for the new school year. We will send that link next week as well. 

While none of us has ever tried to start a new school year under these conditions, and we will all have to adjust our expectations to accommodate for increased safety protocols, we feel extremely confident that our plan will provide for a high quality, rigorous, and meaningful learning experience for students regardless of whether we are in person on September 8th or start at home for remote learning. Once our plan is approved, we will make the decision of whether to start in person or remotely. 

We are asking that you keep an open mind as you read through the plan and consider your options. Returning to school in person on September 8th is our ultimate goal and will require that all of us practice and model the safety protocols now with our children so that they are comfortable with the new expectations before school begins. 

 

Athletics: We have received the most recent update from the MHSAA, and we are currently reviewing the sport specific guidelines and protocols with our coaching staff. We are monitoring the Governor’s order with regard to how the new limits on indoor gatherings impact the most recent MHSAA guidelines.  We will plan on sending out updated information for the start of fall sports next week. Thank you for our patience. 

 

Construction Project Progress: Great progress is being made to the new elementary school. There will be additional soft space between the current elementary school building and the garden for our littlest students to play outdoors this fall while we wait for the new playground to be completed. The cafeteria renovation will be completed in the next couple of weeks, and we are so eager for you to see it. It’s pretty amazing to stand in the cafe and be able to see straight down the new hallway all the way to the end of the elementary school. The new staircase is in, too!

hope you are all well, and wish you happy weekend, 

Stephanie 

 




July 17, 2020

Good Afternoon, 

Our Return to School Task Force sub committees and full group have been meeting to continue our work to solidify plans for reopening. We are confident that the plan will provide  high quality, in-person or virtual instruction if necessary. We are also working on the parent and staff surveys to accompany the plan when the finished draft is released. Student council representatives will be joining the team next week to help us plan with student insights in mind. As mentioned last week, the task force includes teachers, school administrators, our athletic director, board members, parents, the health department, and our facilities and transportation personnel. Everyone is to be commended for their dedication and time this summer in working to develop the best, most thoughtful plan possible. Attending to students’ social, emotional, and academic needs as well as their personal safety are all at the forefront of these planning conversations.  

In trying to plan for next year, we’d like to get some indication of the number of students who will be returning given the COVID situation. Please complete this brief survey to let us know your thinking at this time regarding your plans for returning to school. Please respond by the end of the day on Monday. Thank you for your help with this. As mentioned above, we will also send a survey soliciting your feedback to our plan once it is ready.

The very difficult decision was made this week, after consultation with the county health department, to hold commencement virtually on Thursday, July 23rd, at 7:00 pm. Seniors, their families, and staff were notified earlier this week. We will share the link with the whole community, so anyone who would like to tune in and congratulate these amazing seniors is welcomed and encouraged to participate. 

The health department statement in part, reads, “Between July 4 and July 15 there have been 16 young people between the ages of 15-23 in the Leland community who have tested positive for COVID-19. These individuals are all connected through work, family and social gatherings and between them there are many close contacts (close to 100 known contacts) who have been exposed and potentially infected.  Some are still some waiting for test results, and it is likely that there are others who have not yet been tested or identified. The extent of positive infections and the number of potentially infected is concerning as we can assume at this point that COVID-19 is fairly widespread. While most of these young people have had either no symptoms or mild symptoms, the concern is that if this continues to spread we will soon begin seeing more severe illness in those community members who are most vulnerable. The Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department has been working to identify and isolate those who have COVID-19 or who have been exposed, but we need the community’s assistance in stopping the spread by avoiding social gatherings, practicing social distancing, wearing a mask when around non-household members, and frequent hand washing.”  To access the full Public Health Alert, click here. 

The link on the school's homepage to Construction Project Progress has been updated. Please share that with our neighbors and the residents nearest the school. Our intention is to keep everyone updated about next steps, noise, and general neighborhood happenings regarding the building project. 

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Monday, July 20th, at 6:00 pm via this Zoom link. The link is also posted on the school website and the doors of the school. 

I hope you are all well, and have a happy weekend. 

Stephanie

Superintendent




July 10, 2020

Good Afternoon,

Well, that was a fast week! I will be sending a weekly note to keep you updated about what’s going on at Leland. These notes will be informal and informational. Please call or email if you have questions.

Many of you expressed difficulties opening the two student Black Lives Matter letters I linked in my previous communication. Those will be posted on the school website for easier student and parent access. Check for them under the Superintendent’s Message within my July 1 letter below. These weekly notes will also be posted there if you ever need or want to reference them later.

Our return to school task force met yesterday to develop the school reopening plan. The task force includes teachers, school administrators, our athletic director, board members, parents, the health department, and our facilities and transportation personnel. We will be working to develop the reopening plan between now and August 1st. We will share a final draft of that plan with you on or before August 3rd and ask for your feedback . Additionally, we will ask you to complete a survey to help us prepare to welcome students on our first scheduled day, September 8th. Our plan will flex to accommodate the current phase of our region regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will be hosting a live virtual launch of the plan with families once it has been approved by the board and the state of Michigan. That date will most likely be sometime during the third week of August.

There is now a link on the school homepage to Construction Project Progress that will be updated each Friday. Please share that with our neighbors and the residents nearest the school. Our intention is to keep everyone updated about next steps, noise, and general neighborhood happenings regarding the building project.

Commencement is still planned to occur live on Thursday, July 23, at 7:00 pm at Hancock Park. Masks and social distancing will be required. There will be reserved designated seating for families, and Jeanne will be sending a letter this evening with more details and specifics.

I hope you are all well, and have a happy weekend,

Stephanie Long Superintendent


July 1, 2020

 

Dear Leland Families, 

I am so excited to write this letter from the main office at school after my first official full day as your new superintendent. It was a great day, the first day in what I hope to be many years of service to you, your children, and the Leland Public School community. 

Your confidence in me and your support have been truly humbling and heartwarming. It is a joy to be working on behalf of the students and families who have enjoyed a long tradition of educational excellence in the care of the staff and administration here. I am honored to be in your service. 

I’ve also been busy getting up to speed with the plans for reopening school, the work on the construction project, and the adjustments to the budget. A few of things I’ve been doing to get on board have included:

  • Attending weekly regional principal and superintendent meetings
  • Participating in meetings with state legislators
  • Participating in legislative meetings with key educational lobbyists
  • Meeting with interim superintendent Mr. Hartigan, Principal Gross, and the business manager, Mrs. Thomas
  • Communicating with Mr. Robinson and the school board
  • Facilitated a staff development training session
  • Meeting with Mr. Stowe and the construction team

While the learning curve is steep in these uncertain times, our team here is dedicated and working diligently throughout the summer to learn as much as we can and develop the best plan possible to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.  As if that weren’t plenty, we have also been paying attention to national civil unrest, the state and national budget crisis, and the local impact of educational funding shortfalls. It feels like we have been under siege with confusion, and upheaval. 

As an educational organization, we have a responsibility to respond in ways that promote learning, civility, engagement, and collaboration. We need to model for our students how to deal with adversity, how to overcome disappointment, and how to move forward in ways that allow us to seize opportunities and build something stronger and better. It is in that spirit that we are working to:

  • Respond to Governor Whittmer’s Executive Order 2020-142 to develop plans for reopening by mobilizing our Continuity of Learning Task Force 
  • Support staff in learning about culturally responsive instructional practices
  • Engage our students in conversations about racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and police brutality
  • Follow the MHSAA and national guidelines regarding resuming athletics and competitions
  • Monitor and amend our budget in response to cuts or increases in state or federal funding
  • Provide professional development for staff, specifically around teaming, new curricular materials, and best practices in virtual learning models and strategies

I have also emailed two letters to students as well, one for secondary students and one for our younger students that talk about the protests and civil unrest they have been seeing in the news and on social media. I encourage you to read these letters with your children and learn alongside them and us as we work to develop a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the disparity in the quality of life so many in our country experience by virtue of their race. 

In the next month, our task force will be working to develop reopening plans that we will share with you before they are finalized. Please look for these plans and a survey in late July that we hope you’ll take to help us understand your thoughts and feelings about returning to school. 

We are also working on an informal meet and greet that will allow us to get to know each other and explore the construction progress, both from safe distances. The progress on the building projects has been incredible. So much is happening now. More on that to come. 

Commencement is planned for Thursday, July 23, at 7:00 pm at Hancock Park. Jeanne will be sending a reminder later this month with details. 

We have a lot of work to do - good, meaningful work - and we will need your support to make sure we plan, learn, and grow in community and collaboration with each other. I’m eager to do this work together. 

Thank you again for your support, and I’m looking forward to meeting you in person soon. 


Stephanie Long

Superintendent

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