Local superintendents reflect on 2020, look forward to 2021

Published 8:01 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2020

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It is safe to say that this school year has been one of the hardest for schools all across the nation as local superintendents were given a heaping responsibility of coming up with plans during the COVID-19 pandemic, but local superintendents are hopeful and said they are now even more prepared for next semester.

“Sometimes you find that the brightest stars shine in the midst of adversity,” Andalusia City Schools superintendent Ted Watson said. “Our teachers, staff, students and parents realized the importance of going to school and to me, that is the brightest thing out of all of this. They made every effort of trying to make that happen and we made it happen.”

Throughout the school year, Watson said his staff and students have shown an insurmountable attitude of bravery.

“I think our staff and administration have shown a lot of bravery, determination and desire and love for the kids to put themselves in harms way in the midst of this COVID virus,” Watson said. “The truth of the matter is that our numbers have shown that we have not had an overwhelming amount of cases. So, we are hoping to have as good a semester as we had this past one.”

Though Watson said he knows that some problems will carry over to this next spring semester, he said he is looking forward with a cautious mind.

“We are anxiously optimistic about this next semester,” Watson said. “We hope that everything calms down, as far as sickness is concerned, but if it doesn’t then obviously we will deal with it. I’m actually looking forward to our testing. I think that our efforts will show that with our kids being in school during all of this will show in comparison to others who were not in school.”

According to Watson, there is an overwhelming number of students that will return to campus instead of taking the virtual route.

“Statewide, kids have struggled with the virtual method,” Watson said. “The students were just not disciplined enough and I think we all knew that was going to be an issue. Our teachers basically had to teach two different classes. The numbers are so staggeringly high of students coming back to traditional school, we have come up with a different way of presenting the virtual method. Those few kids that opted to the virtual method will come to the central office and get there instruction there, via online services. That frees up our teachers to teach only in-classroom students. We have tried to push technology in so many different ways and we haven’t really been successful until now. Everybody has embraced technology as the means to which we communicate our instruction in the event that we cannot have face-to-face school. Now, our teachers know what to do if we get sent home like we did last year. I don’t know what it is going to be like next semester, but we will be prepared.”

Covington County Schools superintendent Shannon Driver said it has been a challenging and unusual year, but is looking forward to getting as normal as possible in the spring semester.

“In spite of it all, we were able to have school as reasonably normal as we could this past semester,” Driver said. “It has been challenging with faculty and students out, but overall, I think looking back we feel like we have done a good job of keeping school going. Our staff, students and parents have been flexible and have worked through the challenges that we have had. Every year presents its challenges, but this year is one for the books.”

Looking forward, Driver said they will continue to focus on safety in the new semester, as well as keeping teaching and learning in the forefront.

“I hope that we can continue to have school,” Driver said. “We are going to stay focused on the safety of our students and staff, but we are also focused on academics. I’m sure that the second semester is going to be challenging, but I have a feeling we will get through it and start to see that light at the end of the tunnel.”

With staff, students and personnel having to adapt to a COVID-19 world, Driver said expects that some things they have learned will stick.

“Long term, we have learned some things that we have never even considered before,” Driver said. “I think it will be interesting to see how all of the things we have done will become permanent methods of doing things whether its teaching methods or being more adept in technology. Hopefully this will pay off and people will be comfortable sending their kids back to school and we will see what happens when they get to school here next week.”