Thursday, November 19, 2020

Time For Gratitude, Time For Sacrifice

 As we head towards the Thanksgiving Break next week I continually remind people how grateful I am for the opportunity to have students in school, if even only for a few days per week. Thinking back to August, we really didn’t know what the year would bring. We all digested the different models that each District in the area presented based on stringent guidelines that were in front of them. We liked parts of some models and wondered about parts of others. Most were similar, but none were the same. Given the guidelines it was almost like asking for the impossible. 

With so many moving parts and considerations it sometimes felt like nobody would be able to pull it off. As parents, staff and/or community members all of us either overtly or covertly expressed our satisfaction or displeasure with the different plans. It’s all anyone could talk about. What was good about it? What was bad about it? Is it going to work? Is it safe? The debate raged on in every community leading up to Labor Day. Then we had our first day of school. Then we had a second day and a third and a fourth. The days turned to weeks and the weeks to months. August seems like such a long time ago now, especially as the flurries start to fly in CNY. We are now three months into the school year. It isn’t perfect, but it is school during a pandemic. Our students light up the room with their learning and curiosity just as they did pre-pandemic. Students, staff and families have stepped up to help make our schools as safe as anywhere in the community. In fact, schools are actually doing what the guidelines suggest and we are not taking unnecessary risks. Schools remain a consistent, safe place even as the world around us appears to be losing the battle to the spread of the virus. 

This is the part where I get preachy and I’m ok with any criticism that follows. I want my own kids and your kids to continue to go to school in-person. As a spike in cases across the country and our region surges, we have to make a decision about how the rest of the school year plays out. Believe it or not, this isn’t going to be a decision by a Board of Education, a Superintendent or even the Governor that determines whether schools stay open or not. Our personal behavior ultimately is going to determine whether or not schools stay open. Or whether or not there are winter sports. Or school concerts. Or musicals. Or formals and semi-formals. If we are not willing to make sacrifices in our behavior, if we are not all following the guidelines, then we know that over the next few months the virus is going to spread faster and further than it has since this whole thing started. 

This isn’t about hoping we stay open or wanting activities and events for our kids. We actually control what happens. We need to keep our small bubble of contacts to a minimum. Every social interaction outside of our immediate family or household without a mask and social distancing is a risk for spreading the virus. We need to refrain from unnecessary travel. We need to stay home if we have any symptoms. If we think we may have been exposed to someone positive we need to stay home from school and work. It actually is that simple.

Right now the only thing that is really working is schools. The virus is not being spread in our halls and classrooms. The virus is being spread in the community. What our students and families do outside of school is what leads to students and staff in schools having to quarantine, and it’s the amount of quarantining that ultimately shuts down a building. If the community in general all followed the guidelines as stringently as we are in schools, right now we would not be seeing a surge in the number of cases. 

This is up to us. We all have a responsibility to do the right thing. We all have the power to help stop the spread and bring our schools and community fully back to what we want them to be. Let’s decide to do this together. Let’s make a choice to keep our schools open by making smart choices and making short term sacrifices each and every day. It isn't easy, but it's the right thing to do. The alternative is people doing whatever they want to do in the name of freedom. If we choose that road we know the outcome won't be good and we'll only have ourselves to blame.

Let’s continue to take care of one another, stay healthy, be smart and mask up! 


Continued Success,

Steve Dunham

Twitter: @Sdunhamwgms

Friday, October 30, 2020

October Treat

It’s scary to think that tomorrow is Halloween! The first few months of the school year have been spooktacular and have absolutely flown by. In addition to picking out your favorite candy this weekend and hiding the wrappers, remember to set your clock back one hour for Daylight Savings Time.

Halloween Fun

We were able to have some fun this week with three different Halloween Costume Contests for our MON-TUE, THU-FRI and Fully Remote students. Winners were recognized at each grade level in the categories of Funniest, Scariest, Most Creative and Best Character. Students and staff brought their Halloween spirit and a lot of CREATIVITY. When you can have fun while being safe and looking out for one another, you can’t ask for anything more! A big shout out to our students who were awesome! Here are a few of the many outstanding costumes we saw this week:

FAST Screening

All of our students in 5th and 6th grade will be taking part in the FAST CBMreading. This is an efficient and effective way to screen and monitor students’ oral reading fluency progress. The CBMreading assessment measures reading rate and accuracy and is expressed in terms of the number of words read correctly per minute. Oral reading fluency has consistently been found to have a high correlation with reading comprehension and the CBMreading measure serves as an accurate and powerful indicator of overall reading competence. Those results will help us to better target student needs as we move through the school year.

Picture Retakes Reminder

  • For our MON-TUE in person students Picture retakes are Tuesday, November 3rd during the school day

  • For our THU-FRI in person students Picture retakes are Thursday, November 5th during the school day

  • For our Fully Remote student Picture Day is either Tuesday, November 3rd or Thursday, November 5th from 3:00 to 5:00 PM

We are very pleased with how our students and staff have handled the health and safety guidelines that are in place at school. From limited movement to wearing masks throughout the day, everyone has been consistently doing their part to protect themselves and others around them. Statistics and tracing throughout the region show that COVID is NOT being spread in schools. The spread that is taking place is in the general community. As we head into the holiday season and cold weather keeps us inside more than we would like, it is essential that we all continue to be smart, to wear masks, to socially distance, and to make good decisions while both IN and OUT of school. Keeping our schools open is the responsibility of all of us. Thank you to our students, staff and families for staying disciplined. Let’s keep it up!

Let’s continue to take care of one another, stay healthy, and be smart. As always, if you have any questions or concerns please

email me or give me a call. Happy Halloween!

Continued Success,

Steve Dunham

Twitter: @Sdunhamwgms

Friday, October 2, 2020

Rolling Into October

As we turn the calendar to October, we are just finishing our third full week of school. In some ways it feels like we have been back in school for months, but the reality is that for our hybrid MON-TUES students, they have only had six days physically in school (and our THU-FRI kids have had eight days physically in school). It is early, but everyone is starting to hit their stride, becoming familiar with the schedule, expectations and how to manage the variability that the week provides. 

Whether you have a student who is fully remote or a student coming into school two days per week, the current framework for school certainly brings with it some challenges. One of the things that we know about young adolescents, and certainly 5th and 6th graders, is that most of them are just developing the skills of self-regulation, time management and the executive functioning skills that help them to learn, work and manage their daily lives. All of those are skills that are essential when you are trying to manage a combination of offline and online learning environments and a mix of synchronous and asynchronous activities. But all of those skills take time, instruction, and practice in order to develop. The overused analogy of building the plane while it’s in the air certainly applies to this situation. The skills that our students need to thrive in the current framework are the same skills that they are just starting to develop. We know that it can be frustrating at times, especially when seeing our kids struggle. We want them to be organized, to know what assignments are due, to know when the Zoom meeting is, to be self-directed and more independent, but they aren’t. A lot of young adults in college aren’t there yet. Right now we are asking and expecting our 5th and 6th graders to be there. They aren’t (yet). With that in mind, know that we are going to provide them with the guidance and support that they need to help them navigate through whichever learning environment they are in, to develop those necessary skills, and grow. It’s not going to be pretty at times and it isn’t always going to be easy. But that’s ok. That’s why we all have such an important role in this. Our kids need us to support and encourage them when they struggle, celebrate with them when they succeed, and pick them up when they fall.  

Virtual Planners

Because of the many different teachers our 6th grade students have, Teams have created Virtual Student Planners. The planners list all assignments that students will work on both while in school and while at home during each week. This is a terrific tool for students to use to plan and manage their own time, and for adults at home to help students manage what they should be working on for different classes. In addition to using the planners, students should check their Google Classroom Streams and email daily to review additional supporting information posted by their teachers, including text to read and related videos to watch. 

The Virtual Student Planners can be found on the WGMS homepage under ‘School Links.’

Open House/Title I Curriculum Night

The WGMS Open House/Title I Curriculum Night is Thursday, October 15th at 6:30 PM. This will be a virtual Open House with 5th grade teachers connecting with parents live and 6th grade Teams posting videos taking parents through all of their different classrooms. Additional information about accessing those live links and posted videos will be sent to parents and caregivers over the next two weeks.

Half-Day Schedule

On October 16th we have a scheduled half-day for students as part of our Teacher Workshop Day. Arrival time is the same, but dismissal for students will be as following:

10:00 AM dismissal for all 6th grade students getting picked up

10:00 AM dismissal for all 5th and 6th graders riding the bus

10:10 AM dismissal for all 5th grade students getting picked up

Link to Nurses Blog

If you did not see the update from West Genesee Nurses earlier this week I encourage you to read it. With changing guidance relative to COVID-19 symptoms, as well as the availability and timing of testing, it’s important that all of us have an understanding of the most up to date information.

We don’t know what the rest of the year is going to bring. Perhaps we get the opportunity to bring more students into school more often, or perhaps we are in a situation where we have to all be fully remote for a period of time. Regardless of what comes our way, we know that the relationships our kids develop with teachers and other adults in school are critically important to how well students learn. The academic expectations, rigor and pace will start to increase, but we will continue to take the time to make connections and build those relationships along the way. Every day we have our students in the building is a gift and we will continue to do our part to keep this year rolling along.

Let’s continue to take care of one another, stay healthy, be smart and mask up! As always, if you have any questions or concerns please give me a call or email me.


Continued Success,

Steve Dunham

Twitter: @Sdunhamwgms