The rhythm of the school year that begins with students carrying new books and backpacks during the first few weeks of classes in the fall and ending with seniors graduating in the spring is what everyone expected during the 2019-2020 school year. For empty-nesters, that familiar rhythm has been what they, their children, and for some, their grandchildren have known. Teachers, support staff, and administrators have also experienced the same yearly routine during their school years, and during careers often lasting several decades.
This year brought upheaval in that schedule like no other in recent memory, but amid all the unsettling changes, there are essential activities that must continue. Bills still come to the school for electricity, water, internet, phone, gasoline, and many other expenses. Foodservice staff is preparing and delivering meals to hundreds of students with the help of the transportation department.
Foodservice staff is preparing and delivering meals to hundreds of students with the help of the transportation department. Administrators, staff, and community members hired a new principal for Tilford Elementary school, and staff vacancies from retirement and attrition are being filled. Of course, all those activities mean that payroll must still be processed so it can continue to flow into the local economy.
“Like a lot of parents, it’s been a challenge to balance all that’s going on at home and still work,” explains Crystal Coder, Vinton-Shellsburg’s staff member responsible for payroll and employee benefits. “My husband is working full-time during the pandemic, and we have kids at home. That means that, like so many parents, we have work responsibilities, and we have the new responsibility of staying actively involved in our kids’ learning while we worry about what all this means for the future.”
Phone calls and emails from parents and students disappointed by delayed or canceled activities add to the usual workload. “We understand how they feel,” says Crystal, “because we are disappointed too. Everyone is struggling in some way with this pandemic, and some much more than others. We hope everyone will remember how important it is to be kind and to see the world from their point of view.
“And please understand that when administrators are trying to make tough decisions about whether to close the doors or cancel events, they are focused on how they can protect the health and safety of our students, staff, and community. We know from first-hand experience that those thoughts are always driving the conversation.”