WATERTOWN — When asked to describe what he’d like the community to know about Watertown Public School’s reaction to the pandemic, Superintendent Dr. Rydell Harrison told The Town Times, “Our teachers and administrators are really invested in trying to make sure students have what they need.”

He added, “They’re not just supporting students in learning, but helping support families based on where they are.”

The school district is checking in with families to make sure everyone is healthy and to remind them that resources are available if a child is struggling with assignments.

“If they have questions, concerns or want to share feedback, we’re absolutely open to that.”

Dr. Harrison encourages parents to reach out to teachers and, if necessary, the principals. “They can reach out to me if they need to, but our teachers and principals have been very good about listening. They have heard that the work is too much and not enough, regrouping to come up with options.”

He said the best starting point for questions is the district website at www.watertownps.org, which provides links to distance learning resources.

“We’ve shared information with parents, but they can use the site at any time to access Covid-19 updates and a site specific to distance learning. There are resources including tutorials and contacts.”

A new email address was created at the start of the pandemic, questions@watertownps.org.

“That’s a nice way to ask specific questions, even for something as basic as when lunch pickup will start on Wednesday. Lunch pickup will continue and I think that everyone who needs a Chromebook has one, but there will be times when someone needs something or tech support.”

The district has provided answers and troubleshooting techniques to resolve issues and get students back to their lessons.

Just as the superintendent and his team have been addressing learning challenges, they are also talking about alternatives to traditional events such as graduation.

“We had input from seniors, parents and teachers prior to learning that school will be closed for the rest of the year. That was really helpful information and we’re sharing those ideas with the local health department to make sure that whatever we do is in compliance with guidelines.”

Dr. Harrison explained, “How we talk about our school system is summed up in our hashtag #watertowncares. That’s been a consistent theme throughout this whole period. I’m proud of the community effort to bring a sense of normalcy to our students.

“In addition, I want to acknowledge our teachers for working so far outside their comfort zone. None of us have experienced teaching K-12 through distance learning.

“They’ve been able to shift at the drop of a hat and take risks, try new tools and allow themselves to be pushed professionally. That’s a real testament who we area as a community and as a district.”

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