May 19 was the last day of the 2019-2020 school year and it was a bittersweet day. The year has been anything but normal, with the last 44 days of school being quiet. No students in the halls, teacher’s classrooms were dark, spring activities were silenced and the Class of 2020 will have a graduation that no one saw coming. We can reflect on all of the negative things that have happened since the words Coronavirus, COVID-19, and pandemic became part of our daily language, but to do so would let a silent enemy destroy all that has been accomplished in those 44 days and the previous 134 days of school.
I saw an amazing teaching staff pull together and provide an education with little preparation. They made a transformation from a face-to-face delivery to a digital, paper & pencil format. The paras and kitchen staff came to work every school day to prepare, hand out and deliver an average of 120 breakfast/lunch meals daily to our students. As of today, 4,802 bags have been distributed and the program has been extended through the end of June. The custodial staff continued to do their daily work and added additional cleaning and sanitizing duties every day so the school building would be safe for the rest of us to do our work. The office staff manned the phones and answered many questions from concerned parents and students.
A big thank you goes out to the parents for their help in supporting and encouraging their children to do their homework, in addition to their many other family duties. Finally, the students have been amazing. When we dismissed the students on March 16, no one expected the school to be closed for the rest of the year. Because of the school’s K-12 laptop/iPad program, students were familiar with several different programs prior to the closure, but the sudden shift to a remote learning environment was a big change. Teachers and students never expected an entire quarter of lessons to be done through a computer, text message, email, Zoom meetings, Schoology and so on. Most students adapted very well and did a great job of completing their work. The hard work they put in this 4th quarter will be reflected in the next school year. Generally, there is always a little drop educationally after a summer break, but the drop would have been more significant without the effort the teachers and students put into the remote learning.
We also realize the last 44 days have been frustrating, overwhelming, and emotional for a lot of people. Parents did not expect to become teachers and principals in their own homes. It happened and we all survived. I have seen a lot of great things happen over the last couple of months and to say I am amazed at all of it would be an understatement. #ProudToBeACardinal
It’s time to close the year out and begin to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year. It is my sincerest hope that school will look normal in the fall, but that is very unlikely. As a school district we are beginning to prepare for a number of different scenarios and hope for the best. Before we do, I want to congratulate the Class of 2020 on all of their accomplishments during their years here at Alma. Many of these students have excelled, not only academically, but in their extra-curricular activities as well. You have had a senior year like no other. In simple terms there are a lot of things that are not fair. The loss of a quarter of your senior year and the time that was spent with friends, spring activities, Prom, and a regular graduation ceremony are not fair. Unfortunately, with the new dirty 3-letter word, DHM (Directed Health Measures), these things will not take place or take place in a totally different format. Stay strong and healthy, be proud of your accomplishments, recognize you have survived an unprecedented time in history. Don’t look at these 44 days as a negative event, but instead look at them as one of many life challenges you will face in the future and conquer those challenges just like you have the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Overall the school year was a success. Many academic and extracurricular awards were earned by the students from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Students participated in Quiz Bowl at the elementary, junior high and high school levels, and brought home numerous medals. Elementary students achieved reading goals, math goals and participated in Battle of the Books. The elementary and secondary groups of singers and instrumental groups entertained crowds with their musical talents. High school students competed successfully at CCC Action Days and FFA competitions with strong performances. The One-Act Play were RPAC Champions and qualified for State, and several of the students earned awards for their great performances. The Speech team was successful and was a week away from District competition. In a rare accomplishment, and for the first time in my memory, every varsity sports team from 7th-12th grade finished with a non-losing record, and all but one finished with a winning record. Football, softball, volleyball, girl’s basketball, and the wrestlers all advanced deep into the post season. Congratulations on a great year!
The 2020-2021 school year will bring changes to the staff. At the April Board of Education meeting, the Board accepted the resignation of Mrs. Shennon Helms (7-12 Spanish/French teacher) who accepted a similar position at Loomis. Mrs. Helms has taught Spanish and French since 2010. In addition, two of our para professionals will be headed for new adventures, as they have accepted teaching positions. Mrs. Shelbea Ehrke has accepted a third-grade teaching and head volleyball coaching position at Palmer. Ms. Jessica Coons has accepted a first-grade position and head coach of Speech and One Act at Axtell. I would like to thank all three for their work and dedication at Alma Public Schools and wish them luck in their new adventures. They will be missed.
At the April Board meeting, Mr. Michael Bell was hired to teach 7-12 Spanish. Michael and his wife Corinne have lived in Alma since 2009 and have three grown children who graduated from Alma. Michael is the Pastor of Lakeside Fellowship and will continue in that position. Last year he taught at Phillipsburg High School and had previously worked for Alma Public Schools as a bus driver, substitute teacher and para, and a halftime Library aide. Mr. Bell is a fully bilingual, native speaker of both Spanish and English with 20 years of living in Latin America. He was born in Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico and has lived in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela. He will bring to the classroom a wealth of experience in bilingualism and biculturalism that will benefit the students. Mr. Bell received his Bachelor of General Studies from Wichita State University, Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Fort Hays State University, a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is currently working on a Master of Science in Education from Fort Hays State University. We are excited to have Mr. Bell join our staff.
Despite the Pandemic, our students, teachers, and staff have had a very good year. It has not ended like we expected, but it ended in a positive way. There are many uncertainties about what the school year will look like in August and beyond. We will tackle those challenges just like we have the past 44 days. As we get more information and directions, we will keep you informed of our plans. Stay positive, staff safe and have a great Summer!!
Mr. Jon Davis, Superintendent