March 21, 2020
Dear Verona Community Members,
Last week, on Thursday, March 12th, we notified the Verona community of our plans to close school and transition toward virtual distance learning. This decision was one we did not make lightly prior to the official government shut down of schools this past Monday. It was however, a preemptive decision that we believe was necessary and the right one to make.
This week marked our first days of virtual instruction for our students. By most accounts, things are going very well as we navigate this situation. But as with any new venture, there will inevitably be bumps in the road. We expect those. No doubt such a shift will challenge each of us – teachers, students, and parents.
But what I know for sure is that we live in a resilient community. We have said it before and we will continue to say it. Verona is a great place to live, a great place to work, and a great place to learn. Each of those three factors – how we live, how we work, and especially for our schools, how we learn – are being tested at the limits and at every turn right now.
The Verona Public Schools has the finest educators I have ever worked with in my 20+ years in education. On the drop of a dime, our administrators, teachers, and every staff member banded together and executed an incredible paradigm shift with extremely short notice. During that time, I didn’t hear one complaint from our staff, but rather an embracing of a CAN DO attitude. For that, I am eternally grateful to them. That has certainly shined through over the past week in the delivery of instruction I have seen and I am confident our team will continue to rise and exceed all expectations as we move forward. Your children are in great hands. We have established a deliberate plan which is in place. I ask our students and parents to be patient as we continue to evolve and provide the best education to each and every child in Verona.
To our students, I am proud of you for your resilience, flexibility, and strength. Most of the time, the initial news of a school closure often brings a smile to most kids’ faces. Snow days have that sort of effect on people, including the adults. But make no mistake about it. This is no snow day. Sitting in front of a computer for several hours a day, watching videos, reading, completing assignments, and videoconferencing is not easy work. It requires self-direction, support from teachers, parents, and siblings, along with a dab of independence and focus. By walking into school each day, going to class, seeing your friends and teachers – those are all very special things that we can sometimes take for granted. I know many of our students and teachers are missing those simple things in life right now. We will eventually get back to normal.
But in the meantime, I ask that our students keep a regular routine – wake up at the same time each day, shower and get dressed for “home school”, eat healthy meals at regular times throughout the day, make sure you get your exercise, and stay on top of your school assignments. And as for seeing your friends, unfortunately that will have to wait in the traditional sense. We do however encourage our students to connect with their friends via social connections through Google Hangouts, Facetime, Zoom, or other social media platforms. I know it will be hard for you – it’s hard for the adults too – but our students must stay home and physically separated from other people so we can make sure everyone stays healthy.
To our parents, thank you. Our schools appreciate your support more than you can imagine. The past week has been email after email and social media posts recognizing our amazing educators and support staff. We understand that many of you are working from home, others are required to be at work, and some of you may be facing challenges. We are all wearing many hats and figuring this out as we go along. We encourage everyone to continue to monitor their individual mental health and maintain connections with people in a responsible way to take care of our own social wellness. Please contact your child’s teachers and principals directly if you have questions or challenges. We are here to help. Our school district will continue to examine this evolving situation and will make adjustments accordingly as needed. We are all in this together and we will continue to help each other through this challenging time.
School is not closed. It just looks a little different right now. We have all of our faculty working with families, responding to this fluid situation, and ready to respond anyway we need. We encourage families to contact your principals, teachers, nurses, and counselors who are here to help and guide. Thank you to everyone who has made our success possible thus far. I know we will all continue to do our part until we can return to normal activity. In the meantime, we encourage all residents to practice good personal hygiene, continue to follow the recommendations of local and state officials, and stay tuned to communications from our schools and township.
Finally, I would like to thank our Board of Education for their support the past several weeks as we navigated this transition. I would also like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to Town Manager Matt Cavallo, Police Chief Kiernan, Mayor McEvoy and the Town Council, and our emergency responders for their partnership and efforts that do not go unnoticed in our Verona community. We have so many people who are working together on keeping our children and residents safe. Verona continues to rise to the occasion. Leadership is our whole town working together as one. Please help us out by doing your part.
All my best,
Dr. Rui Dionisio
Superintendent of Schools