Andree Grey, ED.D.
Encinitas Union School District

As a school district, we have just entered our third school year impacted by the global pandemic. It seems hard to believe we have been at this for so long. Yet, despite being exhausted from the many twists and turns in learning models, guidance and data, the August 17th start to our 2021-2022 school year was optimistic and enthusiastic. We are carrying with us a great deal of knowledge that COVID-19 has taught us about our children and our community.

At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, we engaged in a great deal of reflection about what we learned during the pandemic in order to capitalize on this crisis and use it as a springboard to transform learning for the better. Here are our top five takeaways:

  1. Our children want to be in school and they thrive best when in school! When in person learning was not an option or it was reduced in hybrid, students really were united in the desire to return to in person as soon as possible. As they returned to regular schedules this August, they have universally exclaimed how happy they are to be back fully. Never has there been such an appreciation for school by children than now.
  2. Learning is social. As students returned to school, connecting and conversing has been essential. When students talk about their learning with others, they are better able to make sense of it and retain it.
  3. A sense of belonging matters for students and staff. Isolation was stressful and strenuous on most, however, as students have returned they have reestablished their connections to school, their peers, and their sense of belonging to a school community.
  4. Our parents and families are our greatest partners. Many families learned so much more about what teaching and learning looks like because of the opportunities to see instruction or participate during distance learning or hybrid. Families noted feeling more equipped to support their children. We know we can enhance student learning and success by working together.
  5. Social and emotional learning matters. Students cannot learn if they are struggling emotionally and the pandemic has been emotional and traumatic for some. We know we must make sure they know they are loved and cared for before they can fully access content. We must provide intentional and explicit instruction to support students in gaining skills in self awareness, self-esteem, self-regulation, and empathy so that students can thrive in a complex world.

These valuable lessons are guiding our work and our students will achieve extraordinary things this year. In Encinitas Union School District, we are committed to ensuring our students have a school year that supports their learning needs – academically, socially and emotionally despite the continued challenges of the pandemic.