Dr. Brian Ricca: Taking The Lead In Troubled Times

I learned from one of my favorite principals that a good leader stands in front of their team when things go south and pushes everyone else in front when things are worth celebrating. I have tried to model that example in the various leadership roles I have served throughout my career. During these first 32 days with our students in St. Johnsbury, it’s clear to me that I need to stand in front of my team. This is not their fault.

We are one of the only, if not the only school in the Northeast Kingdom that is not yet offering fully in-person education. The Reopening Taskforce decided based on the guidelines from the Vermont Agency of Education and the Department of Health. I proudly stand in front of that decision. We have more than 600 students in our PK - 8 system and more than 180 adults. We cannot have a seat for every student to sit at that is at least six feet apart from others while they do their work.

But the guidance has changed, you say. Indeed it has. We officially received it last Friday night. And our Reopening Taskforce has been expecting this. The new guidance says we need to have a seat for every student in grades PK - 6 to sit at and do their work, which is at least three feet apart from others. The Reopening Taskforce is taking the time to review this and measure our classrooms. We are also reviewing our procedures for screening, our lunch procedures, and our procedures for arrival and departure. In addition, we have open questions about staffing, furniture, and space.

Will we have enough staff for more than 80% of our student body to return? Do we have enough furniture, and do we have the three feet we need to configure our furniture in a way that maintains public health but also feels like a classroom our students can learn and grow in? All these questions stem from one fact that in any other year than one with a global health pandemic, is a good thing.

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