A Message from the Superintendent
June 4, 2020
Dear Highlands Families,
As the school year comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this past year, especially these past three months. I know this experience has been stressful, scary and overwhelming for all of you. I cannot thank you enough for your support during this crisis. The district recognizes the burden that the school closure and remote learning has put on you as parents. You had to become your child's teacher, all while being their parent, and navigating many added struggles as a result of the COVID pandemic -- WE THANK YOU for being so amazing! I also want to thank the students for being rock stars throughout this difficult time. I am so proud of each and every one of you for how you successfully adjusted to the remote learning and school closure. You are a resilient group of students, and you continue to make us HIGHLANDS PROUD!
As you may know, on June 2, the PA Department of Education (PDE) announced that schools may resume in-person instruction and activities on July 1, 2020. With that announcement, they issued preliminary guidelines for phased reopening of schools. Before any school can begin in-person instruction and resume any type of school activities, the district must create a Health and Safety Plan that is approved by the school board and submitted to PDE. Obviously, with these guidelines just being released, Highlands School District will not be in a position to begin the phased reopening by July 1, 2020. Within the next week, the Highlands Task Force for Reopening Schools will be formed and begin to work on this plan. The restrictions and guidelines that school districts are faced with are significant, so this task force will be critical in order to design a reopening plan that meets the needs of the Highlands School District. I will keep you all updated as the task force progresses, so please continue to check your email and the district website throughout the summer.
I also wanted to inform parents that the district has worked tirelessly to be able to provide each student with a district-owned device for the start of the 2020-21 school year. This was a critical need in order to even consider any remote learning options as part of the reopening plans for the Highlands School District. I am so proud to inform you that the devices are ordered, and as long as the deliveries remain on time, all students will have a device for the start of next school year.
Seniors and parents of seniors - please know that the district is working hard to design a graduation ceremony that allows our seniors to be recognized in person, as they so much deserve. Please know the date for the ceremony remains July 1, 2020, as this is the official date that schools can begin to reopen. The ceremony will not be the traditional one we are used to and will be designed with the social distancing guidelines enforced. You will receive more detailed information once the final plans are made. I appreciate everyone's patience as we continue to plan for this special event.
I know everyone is anxious to get back to "normal," but I do not think the normal we once knew is going to be possible. As you know, I will always make decisions that are best for our students, and now more so than ever, those decisions will include keeping the safety, health and well-being of our students and staff at the forefront. All that I ask is that we continue to work together in the best interest of our students, staff and community and be respectful of the decisions that are made even if you do not agree with them. Everyone must remember, the district is charged with making decisions that are best for almost 2,400 students and 400+ staff, all of which have different needs. This is much different than making a decision that is best for just one person or child. In addition, it is important to remember that comparisons to what other districts are doing are not appropriate due to the significant challenges each district faces.
Finally, I want to end by asking all of you, that if at all possible, to take some well-deserved vacation time to relax and recover from this unprecedented situation we were thrown into. It is so important that we refresh and reboot, so that we are all ready to face what the fall may bring. I promise you; I will continue to work tirelessly to get our students back to school this fall in the safest way possible.
Parents and students, you continue to make me proud to be the Superintendent of the Highlands School District, and I cannot wait to see everyone soon.
Dr. Monique Mawhinney