Message to the Community
Feb. 9, 2021
Dear Edina Public Schools Community,
This Monday, February 8th, our Superintendent, Dr. John Schultz, officially informed the School Board of his intent to retire from Edina Public Schools at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
Since 2017, Dr. Schultz has spent his time in the Edina Public School district managing many complex issues, working with the board to create a new strategic plan and vision, keeping our budget balanced for long term fiscal solvency, and pursuing new initiatives such as a study of and focus on academic interventions in our district. We would be remiss not to acknowledge the unique challenges this year has presented Dr. Schultz as an administrator, and we appreciate the long hours he has worked, his leadership, management, and dedication to his fellow staff members and our students during this pandemic.
We understand one of our most important responsibilities is hiring our superintendent, and we are committed to a fully transparent process to find a candidate who has the qualities and experience both the board and community expect in a leader. Additionally, both Dr. Schultz and the board are as committed as ever to managing our district though this pandemic, with our continued focus on the academic progress of our students and overall safety and wellness of our students and staff.
We also want to acknowledge that navigating school in this pandemic is not just hard, but changes in our school model can be devastating to some families and students, some of whom are already dealing with hardships. As your elected school board representatives, we want to ensure there is crystal clear communication of the following:
- First and most importantly, for all the students that go to Edina Public Schools, we see you. We want to acknowledge that nothing about this situation is fair. All of you deserve to be having a “normal” year, going to school, and engaging in activities that bring you joy, no matter what your age, grade or interests. We are constantly in awe of your resilience and creativity and will continue to work with your best interest as our priority.
- To our community, parents and caregivers, we want to assure you that as board members, as well as parents of EPS students, we want to see our own kids back in their classrooms safely and this sentiment extends to all our students. We also recognize the definition of safety is a very personal, sacred one to families when talking about your children and we understand your own definition of safety ranges from complete online school to complete in-person school, to something in between.
- To all our educators, we see how hard you are working providing multiple learning models and at times shifting from one model to another. As a board, we are committed to providing a safe teaching and manageable working environment for you. For our educators in our EVA, we know it can be hard to be isolated and teaching alone. We want to recognize that and support you in your work.
- To our administrators and site leaders, we have the utmost confidence in each of you to manage your respective roles in our district. We have seen you work with collaboration, flexibility, and grace and provide creative learning models for our students in some of the most challenging circumstances. We are confident you are providing safe in-person learning environments for our students, educators and other staff. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
- To the rest of the EPS staff: our community education services, our bus drivers, nurses, custodians, clerical staff, paraprofessionals, food service, technical staff and more: you are the glue that keeps our district functioning. You, many times, face the biggest challenges from ensuring outstanding child care was provided for essential workers to packing and delivering food to our families in need. You are the unsung heroes of our school district.
We are encouraged by the recent rollout of vaccines and the development of emerging nationwide data to help in our decision-making process. We believe that following current guidance from the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health is integral for safe and sustained in-person learning for our students. Our district’s measured and intentional approach along with understanding system-wide decisions and their implications, are critical to learning model safety and sustainability. We continue to be strong advocates to leaders in our state on Covid-19 related issues and are committed to our ad-hoc committee working to problem-solve additional safety interventions that can support sustainable in-person learning. The longer we can sustain an in-person learning model and the fewer shifts our students have to make, the better off they are academically and mentally.
The latest CDC studies and recommendations say schools should keep students socially distanced and in cohorts. Currently, based on analyzing the spread of Covid-19 within the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health further refines this guidance to allow for less than 6 feet social distancing at elementary school, but maintains a 6 foot requirement at our secondary schools. At full capacity, manageable cohorts and 6 foot social distancing between students is not possible in our secondary schools. All leading health organizations stress proper masking, social distancing, and the importance of having the ability to quickly and effectively contact trace and quarantine students, teachers and staff who have been exposed to Covid-19. We believe all of these steps are vital to the success of maintaining our hybrid learning model. As a board, we must also weigh the operational and safety issues beyond the classroom (bussing, lunch, etc.), as well as the financial impact to our district, as we have to ensure we are setting our district up for long term success.
Our ultimate goal is to welcome all students back safely into our classrooms. How quickly we are able to do this is not just an Edina Public School’s decision, an administration decision or a school board decision. It is a community decision. It involves having patience and trust in the process and each other, as well as keeping Covid-19 rates low around us by minimizing the spread of the virus. We truly believe there is hope right now and that good things are happening on many levels. Let’s work together as an Edina community to fulfil our district vision:
For each and every student to discover their possibilities and thrive.
The Edina School Board