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Editor’s note: At the end of each year, The Sun provides an opportunity for area school superintendents and top municipal officials to reflect on the year, and, if they wish, discuss plans for the new year.

Perhaps as a memo from the Department of Redundancy Department, this might read, “This has been a year like no other.”

Just as we were gearing up for a busy Spring 2020, it seemed that everything came to a crashing halt on Friday, March 13. Teachers and support staff, principals and families were given a small number of days to prepare for “distance learning,” something many had never heard of or could wrap their heads around and something that has since become just another (although major) part of the Westerly Public Schools story in 2020. Hundreds of computers and other tech items were distributed along with thousands of meals in support of children and the families who count on us. Teachers and principals worked long hours to learn, to plan to support each other and to prepare for the reopening of “school” on March 23. And things have never been the same.

We have seen a great many successes, and our educators have pulled off more than we ever could have imagined. Yet sadly, prom dresses hang in closets, trips that were looked forward to for years were canceled, athletic traditions were (and continue to be) set aside, and the Misquamicut Drive-In had to suffice in order to give our graduates a suitable sendoff in June. Incidentally, a great time was had by all!

Since September, the members of the WPS have continued to come together, to problem-solve, frankly, to move mountains in support of their students and our community. Students are currently receiving instruction and support in face-to-face models, in entirely virtual realms and in combinations thereof. Inconveniences, frustrations and sacrifices, and disappointments are part of our students’ everyday life right now; with the masks, the protocols, the distancing, the anything-but-normal “new normal.”

But being the Bulldogs that they are, they persist, they persevere, they get after it, and they make us exceedingly proud.

If anything, that is the state of our schools as the craziest of years comes to a close. We have committed adults (in our classrooms, on our buses, in the lunchrooms and cleaning and sanitizing our buildings nonstop) working exceptionally hard in service of kids who have been dealt a bizarre hand, but who are too busy being exceptional themselves to let it get them down.

There may well be more dark days ahead over the next few months, but the sun always does come back out (every single time) and better days are ahead for Bulldog Nation. Our hope is that those days arrive sooner rather than later and that we are able to give all of our students a productive, successful and memorable second half of the school year.

Mark Garceau is the Westerly superintendent of schools.

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