The Methow Valley… It’s more than a Place, It’s a Mindset

As the Superintendent of the Methow Valley School District and parent of two school-age children, I couldn’t be more pleased by the herculean efforts of our staff, parents, and community to prioritize the academic, social-emotional, and physical health and wellness of our youth.

Bright Spots

Methow Valley SunriseAs we look forward to the 2021-22 school year, I’m sending you the first of several messages that are intended to outline our efforts to build upon the “bright spots” that have emerged during this difficult period of time. Given the power of story, I’m beginning by sharing a recent interaction I had with a colleague as I believe it captures the mindset and approach that I believe will serve us well moving forward together…

It begins with a conversation involving a colleague whose school district has yet to reopen its doors for in-person instruction. Hopeful that with the recent decision to move teachers into Phase 1B1, allowing educators to access the vaccine, they too might be able to reopen their doors for in-person instruction, she asked me to describe some of the successes and challenges associated with operating a public school during a pandemic.

Successes & Challenges

Like many stories, I began from the beginning, sharing information about the comprehensive planning and preparation efforts that included the involvement of many. I went on to describe the formation of the MVSD “Return to Learn” Workgroup that took place last June. I outlined the broad range of stakeholders who engaged in an exhaustive planning effort and how it had resulted in the development of a flexible “Return to Learn” plan that provided parents the opportunity enroll their student in one of three options –An in-person hybrid model, 100% remote learning program, a parent-partnership program for parents wishing to receive homeschooling support.

I noted that during this same period of time, a few other districts from around the state initiated a similar process focused on reopening its doors for in-person instruction – in many cases, beginning with it’s youngest learners. I reminded her that many more remained closed for in-person instruction. In fact, as of last week, nearly 70% of schools in Washington remain closed for in-person instruction. And, some of those have recently announced they have decided they will not be reopening this school year.

As I continued sharing our story and responding to questions, many of which were technical in nature (i.e. How many students can fit into a classroom and comply with the six-feet social distancing mandate? What laboratory do you use for COVID testing? Etc.…), I finally paused, then stated…

Over the last several years, our community has found itself threatened by numerous wildland fires. Similar to our fire fighters who’ve worked selflessly, sacrificing themselves to contain and eventually, extinguish the fires that have endangered our land, homes, livelihood, and lives, our educators are doing the same… working selflessly, in partnership with a resilient community to preserve the health and wellness of its youth and one another.

It’s a Mindset

Methow Valley Hot Air BalloonOur success not only resides in our careful planning and preparation, rather, in the resilient nature displayed by our community, time and time again… It’s a mindset. It’s a way of being. It’s what defines our community. We are a community that thrives when faced with adversity…

Thank you Methow Valley for cultivating a pathway forward, fueled by hope, optimism, and opportunity! I look forward to sharing more in the coming days…

Tom Venable
Superintendent, Methow Valley School District