During these unprecedented times, West Fargo Public Schools has embraced the challenge to innovate in ways we have talked about, but thought would occur over the next four years.

With only one week to create a plan, our leadership team rallied directors, coordinators, principals, teachers, and support staff to create a comprehensive, equitable Distance Learning Plan to ensure that our students would continue receiving quality instruction in both academics and social emotional learning.

Our educators and staff have been adjusting to a new means of communication as we meet virtually and conduct business from our individual spaces. This has been a challenge, but each day gets easier. We know students and families will need time to adjust as well, so during the beginning phases of the DLP, we do not intend to introduce new content or academics; the “new learning” will be adjusting to the “new normal.”

In the DLP, it’s easy for students to spend a lot of time in front of screens. As much as possible, we will strive for no more than two hours a day on a device, and we will be assigning students tasks that get them up and moving away from their devices. In addition, we are building in counseling, fine arts, physical education, career and technical education, special education, English language services, Title I and the like.

We are also continuing the intentional use of paper-based tasks to reduce students’ screen time. This will be accomplished by having students complete some assignments on paper, taking a picture of their completed work, and uploading the photo to submit their work. Similarly, our art classes will continue having students work on projects, and they will take and share pictures of their work with their teacher and the class.

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These are just a few examples of how we are going to engage students beyond a device. Beyond the academics, we know relationships are key in the learning process, so our teachers will all have two hours of virtual office time per day, customizable by each teacher for their schedule and the unique needs of their families. This enables the teacher to connect with students to offer homework assistance, and to visit with parents/guardians on questions.

We hope this resource will be comforting to both students and parents/guardians as a way to maintain communication with the school and teachers in real time. It’s also a way for everyone to feel a little less isolated in this time of social distancing.

Although our buildings are closed, our work continues with higher accountability and expectations than ever in the history of education. I would like to thank our educators for their resilience and ability to make distance learning happen with so little time to prepare.

To our support staff, thank you for taking on jobs that go above and beyond your current roles in order to support the system and our children. To our students and families, thank you in advance for being patient and flexible with us as we roll out the DLP.

Together, we have and will continue to learn so much. It was two years ago on March 26 that the Board offered me the role of Superintendent of WFPS. On that anniversary, I spent the day reflecting on all of the challenges our district has been faced with in that time, and I asked myself if I would have taken on this role if I knew in advance what was to come.

While my answer is a resounding, "yes" it has nothing to do with the job itself; it has to do with the people. The leaders, educators, support staff, parents, community, and especially our students are the reasons I love my job. It is the people that truly make WFPS the district of choice.