By Dr. César Morales, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools
The current surge in the pandemic is putting tremendous strain on schools, students and families. The fast-spreading Omicron variant has high numbers of students and school employees staying home due to exposure or infection. Combined with an existing staffing shortage, few of us can remember a time when it’s been this challenging to keep schools operating.
Many are wondering why we don’t revert to distance learning until the surge has passed. The simple answer is that we can’t. Distance learning is only an option for public schools when it’s permitted by the state. For now, the state continues to expect schools to stay open in person to provide the academic opportunities and social support that students vitally need.
It’s under this backdrop that thousands of your neighbors employed by Ventura County’s public schools are heading to work every day to give their best for our kids. This includes administrators, after-school program staff, bus drivers, coaches, counselors, fiscal services and human resources staff, maintenance and nutritional services workers, nurses, office staff, psychologists, specialists, paraeducators, speech and language pathologists, teachers, and technology experts. All of them play a role in keeping schools functioning under these most challenging circumstances. They’re showing up for students even when they’re stressed, tired and worried about the impacts of the virus.
And that’s why I want to publicly say thank you to our incredible school employees and education partners. Thank you for continuing to give your all amidst the unrelenting pressures of the pandemic. Thank you for making the wellbeing of your students your top priority at the same time you’re thinking about your own health and the health of your loved ones. Thank you for adapting to the constantly changing guidelines that are handed down from the state. Thank you for enforcing the masking rules and other protocols that help keep all of us safe. Thank you for being the understanding, compassionate adult your students need. Thank you for making sure kids continue to have access to healthy meals throughout the pandemic. And thank you for making Ventura County an example that others look to for how to best weather this storm.
And now, I’d like to ask a favor of you. I’m challenging everyone reading this to take a few minutes to express their thanks to someone who works in our schools. It could be an email, text message, social media post, letter to the editor, or even an old-fashioned hand-written note. You can also post your message of thanks on our Wall of Gratitude at www.vcoe.org/thanks.
Maybe it’s a bus driver who has a way of making the trip to school extra special. Maybe it’s a teacher or counselor who goes above and beyond for students. Or maybe it’s a principal who steps in to teach classes when substitutes can’t be found. If you’re a student or have kids in school, I’m confident there’s at least one person you’d like to thank. And even if you’re not a parent or guardian of a current student, school employees would love to hear from you as well. A simple message of gratitude would mean the world to the people who give so much of themselves for Ventura County’s students.
In addition to my thanks, I want to offer hope to our school employees, students and families. It may be hard to imagine today, but conditions are going to improve. We’re already hearing from health officials that the worst of the Omicron surge may be behind us. We’ve been through hard times before at the start of the pandemic, and we made it through to the other side. The current crisis is going to subside, and the normal rhythms of school life will return. In the meantime, I hope you’ll take a little time to let the people who work in our schools know how greatly they’re appreciated.
This column appeared in the Ventura County Star on Sunday, January 23, 2022