I hope the first month of school was a positive experience for your child and family. This has been the most challenging start to a school year that we have ever faced. Our teachers and staff have worked countless hours to prepare for an educational model that is complex and very demanding. I am extremely proud of the work of our schools and know that we are continuously refining and streamlining the processes and learning platforms we are using.

Many of our teachers are teaching students in a classroom while simultaneously delivering instruction to students at home. While we are committed to keeping all children on pace and focused on the same high standards, the way in which learning occurs will vary from the classroom to the distance learning setting. Your child’s teacher is tasked with preparing variations in lessons because students are on two different formats. Teachers are adjusting to the demands of dual platforms and continue to enhance and implement the most effective strategies that can be sustained.

The mobility of students between brick and mortar and distance learning has been a significant challenge to schools. We understand there are times when students move from one platform to the other perhaps due to COVID-19 exposure and extended quarantine, but it is vital that families remain committed to the option they chose to begin the school year.

I am thankful that we have been able to continue many activities that make the school experience fulfilling for students and families. High school athletics and extracurricular activities are allowing very limited attendance for spectators. It is imperative to maintain the COVID-19 protocols at all school activities and important to understand there may be different protocols for events in other school districts.

I am aware that this time of significant change can be unsettling for students, regardless of age or learning style. While we know parents are doing everything they can to support their children, we want to share a positive practice you can utilize during time together as a family called “The 3 Gratitudes.” This exercise can help shift our focus in order to make the positive more evident in everyday events. This exercise suggests that each day the members of your family list three specific events from the past 24 hours for which they are grateful. The more specific, the better. As you utilize this technique, the positive aspects of any situation will become more obvious and social-emotional skills will be strengthened. The practice can also create the opportunity for dialogue about the positive experiences and challenges your child faces. Positivity can help provide direction during these uncharted times.

I am personally grateful for our students, staff and parents. Thank you for your patience, suggestions and support as we navigate this first quarter. As we do not know the duration of this pandemic, we are prepared to adapt and modify as needed throughout this school year. We will continue to provide feedback including the school district COVID-19 data located on our website.

Tim Forson, Superintendent of Schools,
St. Johns County School District