APPLEGATE: Celebrating the end of the 2020-21 school year

For schools across the country, the past nine months have been an intimidating exercise in planning, flexibility and resilience. With the entire community’s support, Niles Community Schools and our students, families, teachers and staff have weathered the storm together. As we wrap up the 2020-21 school year, I want to take the time to celebrate our successes and provide a look ahead at our summer programming and 2021-22 school year.

Last summer, the teachers and staff at Niles developed plans for all possible scenarios for the 2020-21 school year. The district worked with health experts and education leaders across the region to make informed and accurate decisions. The community also provided feedback that helped us as we outlined the upcoming school year. The planning paid off, as we were able to offer high quality in-person instruction with few interruptions.

Throughout the school year, our students have excelled and grown – academically, socially and emotionally. Notably, the Class of 2021 has experienced an educational journey like no other. When schools paused in-person learning in spring 2020, the Class of 2021 looked to their senior year with a sense of excitement and uncertainty. Their time at Niles was ending, and the next chapter was on the horizon, but the 2020-21 school year was going to look much different than their years before. However, this group showed their flexibility and tenacity. While safety protocols changed many senior traditions, our students adapted and were able to make the most out of their final year of high school. We were thrilled to see them walk across that stage and move forth onto their next adventure.

As we do each summer, we encourage families to continue their child’s educational journey over the next few months. We need to do all that we can to combat summer learning loss, and we are thrilled to offer summer programming alongside community partners. From our Summer Pop-Up Drive-Up Libraries and Book Fairies to the Summer My Way and Kickstart summer camps, we want families to invest time in learning. Information on all of these programs can be found on our website, NilesSchools.org.

Planning for the 2021-22 school year is almost complete. We are developing multiple plans in preparation for the start of the next school year, and we continue to work closely with the Berrien County Health Department and area superintendents. Serving at the heart of our community, we will continue to garner input from our school community and external partners as we finalize plans for the school year, which will include a virtual option, our social emotional learning curriculum and assistance for students that missed a significant number of days this past school year. We remain committed to providing a variety of options to our families to help meet the needs of all of our students.

Students, families, teachers and staff have put everything they have into the 2021-22 school year, and we will continue our commitment to creating a warm, engaging and inclusive learning environment for all of our students.

Once again, we want to thank the community for all of their support. We are thrilled with the progress we have made for the 2021-22 school year, and we will provide updates throughout the summer. We wish you and your family a safe and relaxing summer, and as always, Go Vikes!

Dan Applegate is the superintendent at Niles Community Schools.

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