School districts rise to the challenge

School districts rise to the challenge
Granville and Hartford Central School Districts

As Granville and Hartford school district superintendents Tom McGurl and Andrew Cook respectively reflected on the stressful year of 2020, they expressed similar sentiments on how the year transpired with the community growing stronger as a result.

“2020 has been incredibly challenging,” McGurl said. “We’ve come together more as a community.”

“While the challenges were numerous, and oftentimes seemingly overwhelming, I have been uplifted by the support of all our stakeholders and the value that our community places on the school district,” Cook said.

When COVID-19 initially broke out and affected the North Country in the middle of March, McGurl said that he and other Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) superintendents had gathered a month prior for an intense meeting that involved “a lot of emotion from people.”

“We were one of the schools on the BOCES side to close preemptively,” McGurl said.

The unknowns were evident. When, how and what to expect drastic changes to the typical school-day routine were thoughts running through district members and administrators minds.

“Last year, we did our absolute best with remote-learning, but we did it all on-the-fly,” mcGurl said. “It was daunting if you didn’t look at it incrementally.”

Cook elaborated on the patience, faith and undying love and support of the district he represents shown my community members.

“The community of Hartford has always been extremely supportive of the school district, and during the pandemic period, this level of support has only grown stronger.  Throughout the period of closure and the reopening process, our stakeholders have been engaged in the process and have offered logical guidance and suggestions that make the Hartford CSD a unique and wonderful place to live, work, and receive an education,” Cook said.

“I am extremely proud to be a member of the community and represent the school district.  The district has been diligent in adhering to, as well as exceeding, the reopening guidelines as well as the health and safety recommendations from the Center of Disease Control and Department of Health.  A great deal of work was put into developing and executing the plan and I am extremely grateful for all the support, patience, and guidance that the community has provided.” 

McGurl emphasized the effort and determination of the faculty, staff, students and district parents to make a “not ideal” scenario into an “almost non-issue” situation, while also making school as “normal” as possible.

“We have held a pretty high standard… It (COVID) has not turned off since March,” McGurl said. “We want to keep some resemblance of our academic program moving forward.”

Cook reiterated McGurl’s appreciation for the district’s understanding and compliance to guidelines and protocols.

“Additionally, I cannot thank the faculty, staff, and students of Hartford enough for all their hard work,” Cook said. “The district’s ability to provide academic materials and meals from March to June and to be able to reopen in September was a heavy lift and the work that everyone accomplished to allow us to open and continue to operate has been nothing short of amazing.”

McGurl mentioned how there are some positive benefits to the remote-learning experience that may carry on once the pandemic is deemed to be finished.

“The level of technology use from our new teachers and our long-time teachers is really impressive,” McGurl said. “I think there will be big changes that come out of this.”

In what McGurl described as a “fluid” situation, Cook matched McGurl’s statement saying his district is taking things safely in stride.

“Each day is a new day, each hour is a new hour,” Cook said. “While the district continues to try and plan for the long-term, we are almost working on a day-by-day basis.”

McGurl expressed honesty regarding his number one concern during the pandemic.

“It’s anxiety, it’s not knowing when the other shoe is going to drop,” McGurl said.

Optimistically, both Cook and McGurl are looking forward to better days in the new year, with the hopes of a return to normalcy and less restrictions in their message to community members.

“I would like to thank our faculty and staff, students, and the entire HCS community for their support and patience throughout the past year,” Cook said. “Our ability to continue to provide the unique educational experience that only Hartford can offer is a direct correlation with the level of support from our entire community.”

“Thank you, I think that’s my biggest one. Thank you,” McGurl said. “We are absolutely going to get through this… Keep the faith.”