Dear Jefferson County School District Families and Staff,

Jefferson County 509J School District reached a major milestone at the beginning of February: all schools in the district opened for in-person learning for the first time in nearly a year. The pandemic is not yet over but providing families the option to have students at every grade inside the classroom is important progress toward getting our community’s youth back on track.

As members of the school board, we would like to recognize the many teams and individuals who contributed to help our schools to re-open and, although challenges remain, share our optimism for the future.
For teachers, the past year has likely proved more unpredictable and challenging than they could have possibly prepared for. Yet we have seen teachers throughout the district working tirelessly to pivot to distance learning while balancing the added burden of additional professional development, maintaining outreach and relationships with students and families remotely, and caring for their own families. Now, teachers are working to adapt their classroom environment and instruction to ensure students can safely learn in-person while continuing to identify and address any gaps that may have emerged during distance learning. The district’s work during professional learning communities (PLCs) has allowed for consistent identification and monitoring of essential learning standards for students. For the last four years staff have been developing and enhancing a database and learning strategies that are essential work to help the district address learning gaps that COVID-19 may have caused. We could not be prouder of the positivity, diligence, caring and collaborative spirit our teachers regularly demonstrate.

Behind the scenes, district staff have taken on new and changing responsibilities to make sure our students have access to meals, transportation to schools, essential technology, and clean and safe facilities.

Efforts in and out of the classroom have been led by school and district leadership who have had the difficult task of balancing the safety of students and staff with the priority of high-quality remote and in-person education while following rigid and continually changing guidelines from our state education and health officials. The district team has successfully procured over $26 million in grant dollars over the last four years which has helped us to weather the financial strains incurred by COVID-19. Our administrators’ work to anticipate and prepare to re-open schools was possible in large part due to weekly communication with the Jefferson County Health Department. Thanks to the Health Department all district staff had the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before schools fully re-opened to in-person learning.

The school board has been working with a team to identify a new superintendent for the district. The position advertisement has closed. We are currently reviewing applicants alongside a community panel and hope to make a selection this spring. Our goal is to make this transition smooth and find a candidate who has an understanding of our district values and see the district continue to make academic gains.

Finally, thank you families and community members for your patience and understanding throughout the many past and ongoing challenges the pandemic has thrown at our school district. Distance learning created an immense burden when students and parents were required to adapt to at-home learning and drastically limited social and extra-curricular activities that youth thrive on. While it is a relief for students to be back in the classroom, your continued efforts and cooperation are necessary to keep our schools open. Going forward, it is important that everyone work hard to respect and follow safety guidelines and protocols that are in place to keep students and staff safe and healthy.

The school experience may look and feel different for a while, but we are optimistic that getting kids back in the classroom is the critical step toward regaining the momentum we have witnessed in student achievement in past years.

The Jefferson County School District 509-J School Board