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UP TO THE CHALLENGE: After challenging first semester, R-6 superintendent optimistic about remaining

Posted Date: 01/15/2021

UP TO THE CHALLENGE: After challenging first semester, R-6 superintendent optimistic about remaining

Credit: Standard Democrat

The first semester of school during a pandemic wasn’t without its challenges, but for the most part, it’s gone as well as it could, and the Sikeston R-6 superintendent thinks the second semester will be even better.

“When we ended the school year, we didn’t know what school would be like in the fall, but we were hoping we would be able to have in-person learning for our kids because we thought that’s what is best,” Sikeston R-6 Superintendent Dr. Tony Robinson said. “We were able to start the year in person and were excited about it. Obviously, we’re going to school in a pandemic, and it impacts not only students, staff and parents but the community as a whole. We’re thankful to start school in person and finish the semester in person.”

The first semester of the new school year was very much a learning experience as both health officials, educators, students and parents adjusted to operating school during a pandemic.

It’s been a challenging several months for Sikeston R-6 students and all students throughout the area and United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here Sikeston R-6 students take part in band practice.

Submitted photo

“It wasn’t without its challenges,” he said. “There were times a large number of staff and students were impacted by quarantines and isolations from positives cases – and it’s been extremely challenging for administrators and teachers to continue educating our kids in-person and virtually simultaneously.”

The intention is to have in-person school, but the district did shut down briefly around Thanksgiving, he noted.

“That was tough but proved helpful in letting our staff and kids get healthy and come back and keep our numbers low,” Robinson said.

Robinson noted how appreciative he is of R-6 teachers, administrators, custodians, food service workers — everyone — and how hard they have all worked.

“I think our staff our people have a done a great job in getting us to this point,” Robinson said on Monday.

And so have the students.

“Our kids have been great about wearing masks, and our staff is wearing masks so that we continue to be in school and continue to have low-rates of positive cases and the staff being impacted. Our numbers are low across the board,” Robinson said.

Robinson also commended R-6 parents during this time.

“I appreciate our parents. I appreciate them and their flexibility, their understanding and their patience,” the superintendent said.

Parent feedback has been mixed since the start of the school year.

“We’ve heard from parents who were thankful we were trying to stay in school, and we heard from parents who were upset — and some whose children were quarantined multiple times — and that’s understandable, he said.

Toward the end of the semester, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the local health departments loosened the quarantine guidelines so that if both individuals at school – the person diagnosed with COVID-19 and the person exposed to the positive case – have masks on and are wearing them correctly, the individual exposed does not need to quarantine.

Currently, the district is good on its supplies to combat COVID-19, too, Robinson said.

“The goal is to get through the school year, and we don’t have the vaccine having an impact on us yet, so we’re going to continue these practices we believe have helped us stay in school long as we can,” Robinson said.

While the pandemic provided and continues to provide many road blocks, school officials have also been focusing on improvements in the district this school year, Robinson said.

“So we’re having school because we feel it’s important to have school, but we’ve also have to do other things like improving our science curriculum with Project Lead the Way, a STEM-focused program, and implementing a new literacy program, Achieve 3,000. All of these things are going on, and everybody has been flexible and they’ve adapted. We’ve also been able to truly, successfully implement and transition to new food service while keeping school going,” Robinson said.

Also during the pandemic, the district has been moving forward with the bond issue to construct a new Lee Hunter Elementary and C building at the high school. McKinstry Co. LLC, the district’s performance-based energy provider, has worked to repair roofs and HVAC and lighting systems throughout the district.

The district’s athletics continue to happen, he said, noting that basketball and wrestling are underway, and students were able to finish football, girls volleyball, girls tennis, softball and boys soccer seasons. Band and orchestra and some other organizations are continuing as well with competitions being held virtually, the superintendent said.

With the second semester also comes end-of-the-year events like prom and graduation, which Robinson said, details have not been decided yet.

“We will see where things are and how we’re progressing with in-person school. We will keep an eye on all those things and try to keep them possible,” Robinson said.

In the meantime, Robinson said the district will continue to wear masks, follow social distancing guidelines and sanitize.

“The big plus this second semester is we have more kids who are able to stay in school,” Robinson said. “It’s great to have more kids in school, and I think at this point, that’s the celebration.”