Vicksburg Schools and All Others on Shutdown

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Keevin O’Neill, Vicksburg superintendent of schools on the right and Steve Goss on the left, have faced a huge challenge with the mandated shut down of schools by the Governor.

By Sue Moore

Little did Vicksburg School Superintendent Keevin O’Neill suspect when he left a March 9 school board meeting that three days later the school district would be in shutdown mode. His job just became even more challenging with the whirl of activity caused by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order to close all schools in Michigan through mid-April due to the spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our job, as always, is to keep everyone safe and healthy. We are waiting on more guidance from the Governor. We urge our families to be calm and patient. We don’t have solid answers until we get guidance from the state. In the meantime, we’ve been pushing out our communications to school families on a regular basis,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill can reach every family enrolled within the district within minutes. Following is a partial communication sent by the superintendent at the end of the first week of the shutdown.

Over 800 Chromebook laptop computers have been distributed to our families the past two days.

Food service and transportation have been working collaboratively to deliver and hand out food to our families. The outpouring of thanks from our families has been non-stop.

Our maintenance and custodial teams have reported daily to ensure deep cleaning occurs.

Thank you to teachers who have pushed out optional learning materials to our students. Our goal is to prevent “slide”, and even though the activities will not be graded and are totally optional, many, many families (including me!) are thrilled their children will have opportunities to maintain.

Principals have also entered the new “normal” and continue to lead buildings virtually.

Thank you to the building secretaries for handling the first few days of the shutdown. Your customer service has shined this week!

Tech investments have been a big help but none of the assignments given will count as instruction time according to the State. Because not all families have internet connection, the schools can’t legally move forward with progression of learning. It’s a matter of equality and the State is making this call for all of the schools, O’Neill pointed out.

“We (administrators) agreed to work from home. There is not a lot of activity at any of the buildings. The plan is to be up to running immediately when we come back,” O’Neill said.

“The bond issue request on the ballot is still going on in May. The question is whether the township clerk will have people willing to work an election by then. There are so many unknowns, it’s hard to even comment,” O’Neill said.

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