On March 10, 2020, Ash Creek Elementary School announced that we were cancelling all after school public gatherings at our campus for the remainder of school year 2019-20, i.e. our annual Track Meet, Taiko Drummers, etc. On March 13, 2020, Governor Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman came together and closed all of Arizona’s schools until March 29, 2020. Ash Creek was just beginning our spring break at that time so this announcement gave us time to prepare for the following week when our students should have been returning back to school. Ms. Rosario Ruiz, our custodian, cleaned and sanitized the campus. She spent many hours disinfecting all the learning, eating, playing, and common areas to make the school safe for the return of students and staff. This entailed cleaning and sanitizing all the desks, chairs, tables, walls, doors, stairwells, and anything else possibly touched by any and every one. And after she had finished that, she cleaned all of the carpets throughout the whole school. We are also having the school’s ventilation systems professionally cleaned.
I applied and got approval for Ash Creek to use the summer food program during this time, which allows us to make breakfast and lunch available for all of our students. I could not have accomplished that without the help of Jessica Krug, RD, School Nutrition Programs Specialist, and Staci Feltz, M.A., Community Nutrition Program Specialist at ADE. They went above and beyond getting me the needed paperwork to institute this program for Ash Creek. They were constantly available to answer my questions quickly so that we were ready to feed the students on March 23rd when our spring break was over.
I would also like to thank Mrs. Lisa Shiver for giving up some of her spring break to help keep the website updated and to help figure out the logistics of distance learning and feeding our students off campus. In addition, she was instrumental in preparing parental permission forms, and emailing important information to our parents. She inventoried supplies on hand and put together a grab and go menu for our parents to pick up meals for their children that first week. We realized that the grab and go menu would not reach the majority of our students, so Mrs. Shiver came up with another menu and we changed to delivering both breakfast and lunch to the bus stops. This allows us to provide a hot lunch to our students and has increased the number of families receiving school meals at no cost to them. It also allows us here at Ash Creek to distribute and collect school work from the students.
With our up to date textbooks available, our three fantastic teachers, Ms. Laura Lind, Ms. Vicky Marvick, and Mrs. Yvette Tracy stepped up and put together a week’s worth of paper and pencil homework according to our curriculum, and had it ready to go for all of their student’s parents to pick up on Monday morning, March 23rd, so that there was no interruption of instruction. They contacted all of their student’s parents to make sure they were aware of how the distance learning was going to proceed. Mrs. Shiver designated two backpacks, (generously donated by Border Patrol), for each of our students, and made sure that all books and assignments were loaded into each child’s backpack for the parents to pick up. The two backpacks allow one to be sent home with new school work and one to be used to return completed assignments back to the teachers. Then the next week’s work can be sent home in the returned backpack.
The second notice came out, and Governor Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman decided to close all of Arizona’s schools until April 10, 2020, at which time we put our second phase into motion. We have computers and excellent computer programs for all ages of students, so it was decided to send the computers home. 20% of my parents did not have internet access so I called Valley Telecom for help. Steve Metts, CEO, and Lana Estes, were instrumental in providing internet service to my parents at no cost to them for the duration of the school year. Our amazing teachers once again got quickly organized and set up schedules for the students so that they could continue to use the programs utilized in the classroom. For Ash Creek Elementary that means: FastForWord, Odysseyware, Pathblazer, and MidSchool Math. Sumdog offers math challenges the students can use for extra credit, and Prodigy is for additional general math practice that fits the individual needs of each student. The teachers also set up Zoom capabilities on the computers to allow for real time instruction with the teachers and classmates at specifically scheduled days and times. Parents were given a schedule of student’s daily activities to give them an idea of how their days are filled when they are on campus, and also a schedule of when each class meets together on-line to assist them in fitting “home-schooling” into their schedules. Again, we are trying as closely as possible, to mimic our regular school days and times during this difficult period.
Then the third notice came out and Governor Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman again came together and announced the extension of school closures through the end of the school year. We then re-evaluated what we had been doing and realized we could fine-tune our processes a bit more to enhance the learning experience for the students and to help the parents. So began phase three.
Now, weekly homework is delivered with meals on Thursdays and the completed homework is picked up also on Thursdays. This allows the students to be doing school work on the same days as when they are on campus, and the teachers are available to answer questions and offer any extra help as needed. After monitoring the Zoom sessions for the first week, and seeing and speaking with the students, I realized that still more changes needed to be made. It became apparent to me that the children were also missing their friends and the social interactions they enjoy at school. And I also felt it was important for the students to know that all of us working here at Ash Creek are keenly feeling their absence. So what better way to facilitate that than to actively engage with each other through Zoom?
So here comes our fourth phase. The students will now be on Zoom daily for art projects, science lessons, and just having time to hang out with their friends, (at school we call that recess). Our dance class and band musicians will be having Zoom lessons with Ms. April Meek, and even though libraries across the nation are closed, our own Ms. Marian Baker- Gierlach, our school librarian, will be continuing the weekly story time with students using Zoom.
Our teachers are on duty and available to students and parents Monday-Thursday from 8:30am to 3:30pm, even though they are working remotely from home. They keep a log of class times, meetings, phone calls, and text messages with both the students and parents. Testing once a week with the Beyond Textbook formatives still proceeds, providing yet more consistency for the students. And the annual post-test through Galileo will still happen in May as usual. However, the annual state testing has been suspended for this school year.
Mrs. Shepard and Mrs. Shiver would like to publicly acknowledge and thank Danelle Cosand from Maid Rite Feeds of Willcox for providing our school with several cases of shelf-stable milk and 1 oz. barbeque flavored meat sticks to add to our meal delivery service.
Essential staff working are required to take their temperature before beginning work. We are practicing the 6 foot distance apart as we go about our work, which is relatively easy as we are working in separate buildings for the most part. All staff are washing hands frequently and Mr. Richard Rubio has been making masks for all the employees.
Hopefully, this letter will help to reassure everyone that our goal during these times is the same as it has always been here at Ash Creek Elementary. To provide the best possible education to all students. Success Does Start Here. We are teaching as normally as we can except that the students are at home. We are positively looking forward to the return of all of our students.
Sue Shepard, Principal