Mental Wellness Parent Summer Support Resources

ACSD#1 shares the following resource for parents as families enter this summer during this uncertain time.

Virtual Learning Parent Survey Results May 2020

Today's blog includes a link to the parent survey that was recently completed. ACSD#1 will routinely consult parents and stakeholders about plans for reopening schools as the coronavirus crisis unfolds during the summer.

ACSD#1 Parent Survey Results May 2020

Building Access and Collecting Information

In last week’s message, I shared that ACSD#1 will be using a three-phased, deliberate approach to reopen schools in the fall. We are planning for a number of precautions, and more than likely we will have to address the very important issues of sanitation, screening, and spacing to ensure the safety of students and staff when we reopen schools in the fall.  There is still a great deal of uncertainty throughout the nation, but easing restrictions and lessons learned from other nations and school districts across the country will inform policies and procedures to guide reopening plans.

During the next two weeks, we will allow building access for teachers and students, so students can retrieve personal items and return items to the school.  Building principals will be communicating with families this week to share instructions on how to safely enter a building and the times allotted for individual students.

Surveys: Gaining Information to Serve our Community

We asked parents to complete a survey starting on May 1, 2020, and we have already learned some important lessons from the more than 1,300 responses we received from parents about the Virtual Learning Plan. The lessons learned can inform plans if it is necessary to implement a remote learning model sometime in the future.

All employees will receive an end of the year employee engagement survey starting today, and this will help us plan for summer school and reopening schools in the fall.  We have been checking in with employees every few weeks, and this will be the last survey this year. Thank you for your past participation in surveys, and please take the time to share your perspective about how we can improve our response to COVID-19 and how we can continue to take care of our employees.

We will also survey students in grades 6 -12 later this week, so we can learn how the last two months have been for our students.  We will distribute the student surveys through their parent’s email to gain permission and ensure student confidentiality.  Our students’ voices are important to the education we provide in ACSD#1, so please anticipate receiving the student survey by the end of the week.

ACSD#1 Reopening Plans – Deliberate Phased Approach

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day and could find some semblance of celebration during this time.  During this stressful time, I find that I need to remind myself to breathe, to find peace by expressing gratitude, and to focus on serving others. We have a lot of work to do in the next few months to serve our employees, students and families, but we are certainly up for the challenge.

There continues to be a high degree of uncertainty related to corona virus events, but the school district is working on short and long range responses to the changing landscape of coronavirus in our community.  This blog provides an overview of the phased approach we will be using during the next few months to reopen schools.

Shortly after launching the Virtual Learning Plan, I set up six task force groups to address issues to reopen schools safely.  The task force groups include Health and Safety, Mental Health Wellness, Learning Recovery, Digital Virtual Learning, Business and Finance, and Personnel.  The task forces groups are working to coordinate efforts to address the following major objectives:

* Certify reopening readiness for employees, students, and families (this includes establishing procedures for social distancing, providing health screening protocols, and maintaining sanitation and hygiene)

* Design a robust learning model to serve students in the ongoing uncertain environment that no longer anticipates that school will be back as usual in the fall.

* Establish ongoing support for students and employees during this time of crises.

* Prioritize CARES Act and Relief Funds allocations (federal emergency relief funds to address the impact that Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019)

A command team will coordinate the efforts of the task force groups by continuing to establish Response Teams that focus on critical COVID-19 issues, conduct scenario planning for ongoing contingencies, and establish communication protocols.

Through the coordinated efforts of these cross functional response teams, the school district has developed the following deliberate phased approach for the next few months.

Phase One: Retrieve and Return – Next Three Weeks

School buildings have been closed and employees have been working remotely.  We trained custodial and maintenance personnel to provide additional sanitation procedures in our school buildings. We will start to open buildings this week in anticipation of bringing small groups (5–9 people at a time) back in the buildings next week to retrieve personal items left prior to spring break and to start to return devices that were distributed during the past six weeks. School principals will be given specific instructions this week to share with teachers and parents, and starting on May 18th, we will permit limited entry for brief periods of time.  Precautionary, social distancing and hygiene procedures will be strictly followed.

In addition to communicating limited access plans for the next three weeks, we are also considering graduation ceremonies and the use of facilities:

  • Graduation Ceremonies: the school board will make a final decision this week regarding graduation ceremonies.  Seniors and their parents have been surveyed to clarify preferences, and the school board will weigh the various options to make a decision that will be in the best interest of our community
  • Use of Facilities: In addition to providing limited access to the buildings, we are also considering how best to permit the use of athletic facilities and how and when sports teams may begin to practice. We will have more details in the near future.

Phase Two: Summer Preparations and Limited In-Person, Summer School —June/July 2020

Schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year (through June 30, 2020), but the task force groups are developing plans to provide summer school for some students in July, if at all possible.  Final decisions are dependent upon social distancing guidelines and the ability for us to mitigate coronavirus spread, ensure the cleanliness of buildings, and provide for the safety of students and staff.  If summer school plans can be implemented, students and parents will be notified in mid-June of the possibility to begin a summer school program starting in early July.

Phase Three:  Reopening School in August

The expectations for schools to reopen in August with the coronavirus behind us is no longer something that everyone takes for granted.  We have read reports of waves of coronavirus infection that will be ongoing for the next 12 – 18 months or until a vaccine is produced to protect our community from the disease.   The task force on learning recovery is also working on plans for how education will be delivered next fall if we have to continue some aspects of the virtual learning plan.  We will communicate with parents, students, and teachers throughout the next few months as plans are being developed.


Last Friday I included a tribute to parents in the Superintendent’s blog.  You can find the link HERE, and we have also created a page on our website for information about COMMUNITY RESOURCES.   Links on the page provide information about counseling, housing, utilities, and other social services.  The school district will also continue to provide meals for families for the foreseeable future.  You can find additional information HERE.

We added a Homework Hotline feature to the Virtual Learning Plan to support students for the next few weeks.  Paraprofessionals are providing support from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day and you can find the link to the Homework Hotline on the virtual learning pages or click HERE. The first time you access the Hotline, you will have to enter the password, “parent” and press enter.

Teacher Appreciation Week: Tribute to Parents—A Child’s First Teacher

We have been celebrating our teachers and other employees all week, and there are great stories of support from the school Parent Teacher Organizations (PTOs), accolades for teachers who did something special to assist a student, and celebration activities throughout the week.

Today’s message is a thank you for our students’ first teacher—PARENTS.  The coronavirus crisis has upended our lives, and parents were required to step in and provide encouragement, guidance, and expertise that ACSD#1 professional teachers usually provide.  When we implemented the Virtual Learning Plan our intent was to provide virtual lessons as a stop gap and a resource for students and parents.  I wrote the following in this blog on April 14, 2020:

“Some people ask why we do not require more time for students to be actively engaged in academic lessons, some suggest we should do less or even not offer anything at all.  The schools are an integral part of our community and by creating an opportunity to engage in an online learning platform, we provide a focus for students to improve their understanding of content, practice their academic skills, and become better independent learners which is certainly an aspiration for students to be lifelong learners.  It all starts with connections and our relationships with each other.”

Relationships and learning have been the focus of our efforts for the past several weeks, and as we wind down the year, it was time to take stock in what has transpired and prepare for the summer and next fall.  We distributed a survey last Friday, May 1, 2020 and so far we have collected over 1000 responses.  We will continue to collect responses for the next week, but here are some of the results we have compiled so far.

The first question asks about communication that parents have received from the district.  Most (85%) parents are satisfied with the communication from the district and request that the district provide no more than weekly updates regarding COVID-19. Parents did notice that much of the weekly communication was returned to the school buildings, so we could focus on student-teacher relationships, and 88% of the parents responded that they are receiving weekly communication with the school.

Another question from the survey asked parents to agree or disagree with the statement, "The Virtual Learning Plan lessons have been helpful for my child(ren).

The answer to this question showed a little more than 50% of the parents agreed that the lessons were helpful for their children:  55% agreed, 30% disagreed, and 15% neither agreed or disagreed.

Parents were also asked whether they were satisfied with the school district's response to COVID-19.   80% of the parents responded that they were "satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with the response from the school district."  5% of the respondents indicated that they were "not satisfied at all."

We appreciate your taking the time to complete the survey.  The survey is still open for parents to share perspectives on the Virtual Learning Plan and the school district's response to the COVID-19 crisis.  Parents can use this link to access the survey: Parent Survey COVID-19 May 2020.


One of the lessons learned from implementing the Virtual Learning Plan and receiving feedback from parents is the need expressed by parents to provide additional support for students.  ACSD#1 started a Homework Hotline this week, and students can access the link HERE or by going to the ACSD#1 Virtual Learning Pages and clicking on the link to the Homework Hotline.   When you first access the service, you will have to enter the password, "parent" and click enter.  This is to provide bot detection and spam protection.  ACSD#1 paraprofessionals are providing support for the Homework Hotline daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.  We hope you will have your children connect with Homework Hotline when they need a little extra assistance.




Teacher Appreciation Week – Years of Service Honored

We continue with our celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, and we get to honor our employees who have achieved a significant milestone with ACSD#1.  Please see the honorees by going to a special web page announcing specific milestones for their years of service.


One of our favorite parts of the end of the year celebration besides getting to greet colleagues from across the district is to share stories, announce recipients, and award special gifts of appreciation.  We will hand deliver or otherwise get this year’s recipients their special award sometime before the end of May.  Thank you for all you have done for the school district, our students, and our families.  Congratulations on achieving a significant milestone with the school district!


Teacher Appreciation Week -- Retirees Honored

Please join me and congratulating the ACSD#1 Employees who will be retiring this year.  You can access the retiree web page HERE. 

ACSD#1 usually does a ceremony for our honored retirees, but we will not be able to have a gathering at the end of the school year. Please accept this medium to celebrate the dedicated years of service our retirees have devoted to ACSD#1 students and families.   Please send our retirees an email, a card, or reach out with a phone call.

Congratulations on a successful career and our best wishes for a happy retirement.  We hope that travel may be in your plans in the not too distant future, but for now, be safe and stay healthy.



Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, May 4 - 8, 2020

I am grateful for the wonderful teachers in ACSD#1, and I look forward to celebrating and acknowledging our teachers throughout the week. We have hosted a celebration event at the end of the year for the past two years to recognize our retirees as well as acknowledge milestone years of experience, and the teachers who have attained continuing contract status.  Unfortunately, we will not be able to have the ceremony this year, but we will recognize each of these groups on our website starting Wednesday, May 6, 2020.   Our recipients will receive their gifts at the end of the year, but please check our website starting Wednesday for the names of our retirees, teachers recognizing milestone years of experience, and teachers receiving continuing contract status.

Virtual Learning Plan Update

This has been a challenging but exhilarating last 45+ days, but as we prepare for the end of the school year, I wanted to share some of the things that are happening in ACSD#1.  First, we distributed a parent survey last Friday, May 1, 2020 asking parents their perceptions of the Virtual Learning Plan and suggestions they may have for the next few weeks.  The anonymous survey can be accessed on this Parent Survey May 2020 link.  We will review the results this week and continue to review comments for the next couple of weeks to help us improve how we deliver this model (if we need to continue in a virtual learning model this summer or even next fall).  We presently have more than 900 responses, and I look forward to learning what has worked well and what we can do better.

Graduation Ceremony update

The Senior Events Committee (Graduation Ceremony) committee is meeting this week, and they will make a recommendation for school board consideration at their work session on Wednesday, May 6, 2020.  We hope to have plans formulated this week, but final school board approval will be made at the regularly scheduled May 13, 2020 school board meeting.

End of the Year Plans

As the state eases the stay-at-home restrictions during the next couple of weeks, we intend to relax our remote working requirements as well.  We will start permitting limited personnel back in buildings once our reopening plans have been established and have been approved by county health officials.  We intend to develop plans for small groups of students to reenter school buildings to retrieve personal items, and we also intend to provide all personnel an opportunity to clear classrooms and retrieve personal items.  These preliminary plans can change with modifications to the current health orders from state and county health officials.

I will update this blog frequently during the next couple of weeks as plans are developed and the school district is given more latitude to relax remote work requirements.

Blowing Bubbles: Taking Care of Yourself So You Can Be the Best for Others

Being childlike often provides a sense of relief from some of the stress and anxiety of situations.  Blowing bubbles is a technique I learned from my wife who kept some bubbles in her bottom desk drawer when she was doing mergers and acquisitions during our time in Nashville.  Sometimes blowing bubbles in the backyard produced just the right amount of laughter required to deflate any tense situation. Today's message provides support and encouragement for our teachers and parents during this uncertain time.

Our priority message has been to take care of yourselves and your families first. There are so many aspects of what it means to do this. One that keeps coming up during this unprecedented time is the toll it’s taking on our mental health. The surveys we’ve sent have revealed some of the issues our people are feeling:

  • Anxiety from the unknown: Will schools open again this spring, summer? Will I (or my students) have to work harder in the fall to make up for what’s missed now?
  • Worry: I’m worried about me or my family getting sick. Are our at-risk students OK? How long will I have a job and continue to get paid (especially since I don’t have specific work right now)?
  • Isolation and loneliness of being confined in our homes and away from other people.
  • Stress of trying to juggle family and work obligations.
  • Dealing with the loss of cancelled activities, especially prom and graduation.

We don't have all the answers for many of these questions, but we keep communicating answers when the next steps can be revealed.  The Governor shared some of the steps we can make in Wyoming to start to reopen.  ACSD#1 will take small, deliberate steps during the next couple of weeks to ease the burden of working remotely and to start putting plans in place to ensure the safety of our students and employees when we can reenter the school buildings.   We will continue to work remotely, but if you need assistance or support during this time, please ask for assistance.

Here is a list of resources to help during this stressful time:

  • A link to the ACSD #1’s EAP program is on our website under employee resources.
  • Local therapists and counselors are using telehealth to serve their clients.  Please contact them for assistance.
  • If you are struggling or know a family in our school district that is struggling, please reach out to us, call 721-4400 or email
  • Here’s an article from Walgreens on how to cope with COVID-19 anxiety & stress.
  • Supportive Talk and Resources (STAR) can be reached at 307-766-5490  (UW Social Work Students)
  • If you’re affected by social isolation check out this article.

Please continue to practice social distancing and be diligent about washing your hands.

Be Safe and Stay Healthy

ACSD#1 to Remain Closed Through May 28, 2020 -- Virtual Learning Continues

The school board met on Friday, April 24th and made the decision to close schools for the remainder of the school year and continue the virtual learning model that ACSD#1 began on April 6, 2020.  This decision was made in response to guidance from the Governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow who clarified in a press conference on Thursday, April 23, 2020 that recent health orders would remain in effect beyond the April 30, 2020 expiration.

School board trustees expressed concerns about the unfortunate and unprecedented circumstances we now face.  Trustees also shared comments about their sincere concern for our students’ safety and well-being, but ultimately, acknowledged that the closure of schools was in the best interest of our community.

All is not lost for education in Albany County with this decision.  I know that many of our employees and parents needed some certainty that this decision provides. However, many people are concerned that now that this decision is made, students and educators will relax and not engage with the learning provided by the virtual learning model. I offer the following challenge and a reminder from history to guide us through the next four weeks.

One of my favorite educational writers from Stanford University, Professor Larry Cuban, shared a story in a recent blog post about the Chicago Public Schools that had to shut down in 1937 due to polio. The blog post shares a reprint from The Washington Post article published on April 3, 2020 from assistant professor, Michael Hines.  Hines begins the article,

“A rapidly spreading virus with no known cure or vaccine. Chicago-area schools closed. Experiments in remote learning and concerns over access to technology. This has happened before.”

Hines continues to explain how the community engaged in remote learning through a technology solution available at that time—the radio. There were a number of lessons learned, but in the final analysis, reporter, Larry Wolters, of The Chicago Daily Tribute[i] concluded, “as the polio crisis showed, it had ‘become increasingly more apparent that the most radio can do in the teaching role is to stimulate thinking and to inspire further study.’ Even though technology has come a long way in the decades since, it is a safe bet that any plan for virtual instruction now will come to the same conclusion.”

Ultimately it comes down to recognizing what’s most important. You are never going to have this much time with your family again. Take advantage of not having all the various sports or activities. Do things you haven’t been able to do together. Play more. Go on a virtual safari. Teach your kids life lessons (how to cook, how to do laundry, how to make a budget, etc.), Make memories by learning, stimulating thought, and inspiring further study.  We talk about family first in ACSD#1—building relationships and take this time to discover.


[i] Larry Wolters, “Broadcast Food for Thought? Use Sugar Coating!” Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, IL), Sept. 19, 1937.