By Julie Critz, Superintendent, Alexandria Public Schools

First, thank you for your patience as we have been navigating the impact of implementing distance learning from March 30 until June 2. In reflecting back on this unprecedented school year, I want to once again acknowledge our administrators, teachers, and staff for their commitment to providing excellent educational opportunities, identifying ways to make the best of the situation in spite of the challenges facing us. We planned with a "kid first" mindset, which allowed us to ensure there was quality learning for more than 4,100 students. Our attendance rates were high, our academic success rates were high and our survey responses from parents and staff were relatively high as well. We also delivered more than 250,000 meals to over 2,600 students.

Home-school-community

We have lived in a time of increasing uncertainty over the last 2 ½ months as we have individually and collectively worked to flatten the COVID-19 pandemic curve. Despite this uncertainty, we have many things to celebrate. Our school families have been valuable partners in distance learning and together we have educated our students during the final months of the school year. Our parents, churches, businesses, service organizations and non-profits have provided important support for students, families and schools, and we are so grateful. Many thanks to the entire community for your patience, grace, thoughtful questions, offers of support and your genuine appreciation for the complexity of the situation. Strong schools build strong communities and your partnership continues to be greatly appreciated.

Bright futures

June is always symbolic of celebrations — a look back as we close out the school year and a look ahead as we celebrate the Class of 2020 and excitement for their bright futures that lie ahead. Under MDE graduation guidelines, our end-of-year senior celebrations could not take place in our traditional manner. We engaged with students and parents to create alternative, yet memorable, celebrations for seniors, including Honors Night, Baccalaureate, and a three-part Graduation Plan. As such, 301 seniors celebrated graduation in virtual fashion and received their diplomas in drive-thru fashion. Our local police and fire department escorted the senior car procession, followed by a spectacular fireworks display organized by parents. Videos from each of the events are included on our website, www.alexschools.org/Classof2020, so in case you didn’t have an opportunity to view them, I encourage you to do so.

The Class of 2020 has been faced with challenges which called upon each of them to tap into inner strengths and meet great adversity with strong resilience and adaptability. Certainly, our graduates have grown in character. Congratulations go out to each and every member of this special class and we wish them success and happiness as they move on to new experiences and opportunities.

Summer school-age care/meals/summer school

For elementary school parents, there is still time to register for our fee-based summer school-age care program COMPASS which began June 3. There will be two sites — Voyager and Woodland. Parents can register by calling 320-762-3310 or by visiting the Community Education website, https://alexandria.ce.eleyo.com/child-care/4/compass.

I am pleased to share that the district is extending meal delivery service June 8-30, for those families who have a need and that have signed up. We are not signing up new families for the June 8-30 delivery, however, meals will be available for curbside pickup at Woodland Elementary, Monday-Friday, 10am-noon, June 8 through August 28.

Our summer school focus will be around attending to the social and emotional needs of students and families with a focus on creating and maintaining relationships, creating a sense of belonging and connection for students, and keeping students engaged and safe.

Leadership transition

As we turn our focus from the recently closed 2019-2020 school year to the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks for the opportunity to serve the Alexandria Public School district over the past 19 years. It has been my privilege and honor. Rick Sansted, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, was the unanimous choice of the Alexandria School Board, and will step into the superintendent position July 1. In times of uncertainty, consistent leadership is a must. Rick shares a deep passion and commitment to success for each student, and he understands the importance of keeping the work and future planning of the school district on track and moving forward. And, how extremely lucky the district is because we are supported by a strong board of education as well as educators who are professional and continue to shine even when faced with the unknown.

On behalf of all of us at Alexandria Public Schools, thank you for entrusting us with the education of your children. Enjoy your summer!

Julie Critz is the superintendent of Alexandria Public Schools. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.