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What is contact tracing and how does it work when someone tests positive for COVID-19 in our schools? On this episode of the Supercast, we talk with Salt Lake County Health Department Epidemiologist Annie George who explains the process of contact tracing and how parents can track COVID-19 cases daily by using a COVID-19 Data Dashboard established by Salt Lake County Health.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. What is contact tracing and how does it work when someone tests positive for COVID-19 in our schools? On this episode of the Supercast, we talk with Salt Lake County Health Department Epidemiologist Annie George, who explains the process of contact tracing and how parents can keep track of COVID-19 cases, data by using a COVID-19 Data Dashboard established by Salt Lake County Health. Annie, thanks very much for taking the time. Let's just start out by talking about contact tracing. Why is it important to do contact tracing to keep everyone safe in our schools?

Annie George:
That's an excellent question. The goal of contact tracing is to stop the spread of a disease. We actually use it for other diseases besides COVID. But the goal there is to let people know who have been exposed to the disease so they can take the appropriate precautions to hopefully contain the spread.

Superintendent Godfrey:
How does contact tracing work?

Annie George:
Specifically for COVID, we look at those who have been in close contact with an individual who's tested positive. We define close contact as within six feet of someone and then if the duration is for longer than 15 minutes. We also are putting in the caveat that this is with or without a mask. We get a lot of questions about that.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Why are we wearing masks if we still have to quarantine?

Annie George:
So, as a lot of studies that have come out recently have shown, not all masks are created equal. Some of them are more effective than others, depending on what they're made out of. And also, it requires the people to be wearing their masks correctly. I've seen as I've gone about out in the community lately, there are a lot of people that will just wear the masks over their mouths with their noses are sticking out. To kind of mitigate the risk there, we keep to that definition of within six feet for longer than 15 minutes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I have a couple of follow-up questions on that. First of all, I've heard some confusion over time about whether those 15 minutes have to be consecutive or not.

Annie George:
Yes, that's generally the guidelines we use, if it's been consecutive.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So for the most part, it's 15 consecutive minutes, that's the threshold you're looking at to determine whether someone has really, truly been exposed to the Coronavirus or not.

Annie George:
Yes. There’re risk levels that we assign.  Anybody that's over the 15 minutes in a consecutive time block would be considered risk. If it's anything less than 15 minutes, it's considered a lower risk exposure.

Superintendent Godfrey:
My other question is about the masks themselves. You mentioned, of course, that all masks are not created equal, and also the way that masks are worn will vary from person to person. So, wearing the mask is still very important because it helps prevent the spread. But because you don't know exactly how the mask was worn, that doesn't eliminate the risk when you're doing contact tracing.

Annie George:
That's correct. We still very strongly encourage people to wear masks and to wear them correctly because it does help with the spread. So yes, we still do encourage that.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Besides wearing the mask over the mouth and nose, are there other things that people need to be thinking about as they are wearing their mask?

Annie George:
I think most importantly, make sure you can breathe in it. That's important. And then make sure it's got a good fit on your face. If you're breathing too easily and it's not covering adequately and then it's probably not doing its job. Make sure it's got a good fit. You don't want to be putting an adult size mask on a kid because odds are, it's not going to be a good fit.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Okay. Thank you. Going back to contact tracing, does contact tracing help everyone, students, teachers, other employees?

Annie George:
It does. It absolutely does. So, if those that have been exposed to the disease or have the disease are removed from an environment, the risk of spread goes down greatly. So, it absolutely does help.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What are some of the questions that people are asked when you're doing contact tracing? As you mentioned, is it just how long they were around a person who we know is infected? Whether they were both wearing a mask doesn't change things? What are some of the other questions that we've, that we've asked?

Annie George:
At the Health Department, we primarily focus on contacts that these people have had. How many people live in their household? For adults we ask if they have a job or with high school students, a lot of them could have jobs as well. We ask about employment. We do notify workplaces so they can take appropriate precautions as well. If they've been there within 48 hours prior to their symptom onset, we've asked about where they've been. We need to know if they've been in a healthcare setting previously or just their whereabouts so we can track where they've been and notify those that need to be notified.

Superintendent Godfrey:
If someone has been exposed, they would be quarantined, and those who are infected may be isolated. Is that correct?

Annie George:
Yes, you got it.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We do hear confusion about those two terms a fair amount. Would you define for us what those two means?

Annie George:
Sure. Like you said, we call it isolation if you are either diagnosed with the disease. You have to be sick to be on isolation, when you're either diagnosed with the disease or you're symptomatic, or maybe you're waiting for a test result to come back. That would be considered isolation. For quarantine, it's that you have a known exposure with an individual that has the virus, but you are not, or maybe are not yet exhibiting symptoms.

Superintendent Godfrey:
That's the difference between isolation and quarantine. There's a difference in length also, though isolation tends to be 10 days, quarantine is 14 days. Why the difference?

Annie George:
Isolation will necessarily be limited to 10 days. It can be longer than that. We're waiting for this person's symptoms to resolve and for every person, that's different. One of the things that we thought was very strange about COVID to begin with was people would start to show kind of milder symptoms towards the beginning and then between days like 5 to 10.  Sometimes people would just tank and get a whole lot worse and maybe end up in the hospital. So that's what we're watching out for. The technical definition is, you can't have a fever for 24 hours before you can return to school or work. And that needs to be without the use of Tylenol or other fever, reducing medication. It might not necessarily be 10 days. It could be longer than that. But that's kind of the baseline of the majority, looking at the collected data, looking at the majority of cases, most people's symptoms resolved by date day 10.

Superintendent Godfrey:
That's isolation, specifically, that you're talking about?

Annie George:
Yes. For isolation. So that is based off of a disease's incubation period. Again, from looking at research, it has been decided that the incubation period is 14 days. They have had a case where someone was exposed and went home and quarantined like they should, and they developed the coronavirus on day 13, after they hadn't had exposure to anybody else. So, it is possible for it to take that long.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Is that super common?

Annie George:
No, generally not. If people are going to develop symptoms, it's typically quicker than that.  But that's why we use the length of the disease infection or infection period to determine that.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, 14 days is the time it can take to develop those symptoms. But many times it will happen at least a few days earlier than that. Okay, now the Salt Lake County Health Department launched a Data Dashboard for the county. Can you tell us how to access that and tell us a little bit about the information that's presented there?  There's a lot of information, not just about schools, but about the county, more broadly.

Annie George:
Yes. So the Dashboard itself was launched several months ago. The school's specific portion was what was launched last week. It can be found on our website at slc.org/health/. There's a Coronavirus information page you can click on. I'm actually part of the team that helped develop it. So it's been kind of an interesting process we've gone on through the months. We've determined different needs that we have. We've made a lot of changes to the Dashboard, but if you haven't had a chance to check it out, I would greatly encourage it. There's a lot of very helpful information on there. Our goal in developing the Dashboard Board was to be transparent about the number of cases that we have.

We've had a lot of people criticize that scene. That's not really the number of total cases. That's actually just the number of positive tests and people can test positive for a long time. We've already taken that into consideration, and those are actual case count numbers of people that have had Coronavirus within Salt Lake County. We also have provided the ability on there for people to drill down to smaller than just the County level data. The State Health Department also has a Dashboard and it's all County-level data, but we wanted to give Salt Lake County residents the ability to drill down to smaller level data. You can actually look at city level data. You can look at zip code, and specific data for the larger cities that encompass multiple zip codes.

So there is a lot of data that shows our case counts every day. It shows outbreak information as well. And then, like you said, last week, we rolled out a new school site. We've had this question a lot. Parents will call in and say their kid's school isn't on there.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So how is this accurate?

Annie George:
It's actually a good thing if your kid's school isn't on there. That means that there are no cases at the school, which is what we want to see. So other than that, we don't show exact case counts at the school level due to privacy concerns. We use the 15, either less than 15 or greater than, or equal to 15 threshold that was developed by State leadership to kind of mask the exact number of cases. The exact case count of every school district is available on there. It's a good resource. I think that I would encourage parents to look at it.

Superintendent Godfrey:
How frequently is the Data Dashboard updated, and at what time of day?

Annie George:
It's updated every day, Monday through Saturday, and the update refreshes every day at 2:00 PM. If you get on site a little after two, it should be up to date. It encompasses data up through midnight the night before. So you won't have any data from today on there. It will all be yesterday's data.  When the number of cases or any of the information is posted on there, it's really from the previous day up through midnight.

We'll take a quick break and when we come back, more with Annie George, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist with Salt Lake County Health.

Sandra Reisgraf:
Are you looking for a job right now, looking to work in a fun and supportive environment with great pay and a rewarding career?  Jordan School District is hiring. We're currently filling full and part time positions. You can work and make a difference in young lives and education as a classroom assistant or a substitute teacher, apply to work in one of our school cafeterias where our lunch staff serves up big smiles with great food every day. We're also looking to hire custodians and bus drivers in Jordan School District. We like to say people come for the job and enjoy the adventure. Apply today at workatjordan.org.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I'm sure you're getting a lot of calls. You've had a lot of conversations with people and a lot of different circumstances. Tell me, what are some of the misconceptions that you're hearing out there?

Annie George:
One of the big ones is that this doesn't affect children, but it's not something that we have a clear answer on. If you think back to the beginning of this, when Coronavirus first arrived on US soil, one of the first things that we shut down was our schools to help eliminate the risk of spread there in school. That's still kind of an unknown that I think people need to consider. We know there hasn't been nearly as many fatalities in children and that's something that is excellent, but we also still have to keep in mind that asymptomatic transmission does occur. It's also kind of scary going when kids maybe get home from school and their parents aren't there yet, and they go visit grandma and grandpa for a while. They're interacting with the high-risk population. So, I think those are all things that need to be kept on people's radar.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Any other misconceptions or common questions that you're getting?

Annie George:
Sure, we had a lot when the CDC released data about the 6% of deaths. That was the only number they had where Coronaviruses was specifically listed on people's death certificates. We had a lot of questions around that, whether really the number of the 244 deaths listed on Salt Lake County Health Department's Dashboard was really only 6% accurate, and that is not true. I think what people need to know about it is that the number is likely very under-reported. Sometimes the main cause of will be that a person has a cardiovascular issue or acute respiratory failure or something like that. And those can all be conditions as a result of having COVID-19.

So, I think that's one of the big misconceptions that we've dealt with as of late. Another one that's been in the media is that they hope to have a vaccine rolled out at the beginning of November and people are kind of holding onto that date. But people need to be aware that, even if that does come to fruition, we've seen in some of the vaccine trials that there's been a delay because of adverse reactions. So even if one does make it on the market by November 1st, it's not like there's going to be enough to go around. We're kind of in a holding pattern until enough of the vaccine is available. So, if you want an example of that, we also track influenza cases very heavily here at the Health Department, and every year the CDC meets in February. The flu season isn't even technically over yet, but in order to make enough vaccines for the next flu season, they meet in February and decide what strains are going to be included in that virus because it takes that amount of time from February until they roll them out, in generally August, to create that many vaccines. So, I don't want people to have false hopes that come mid-November, we're all going to be trolling back to our lives as normal. I don't think that's going to happen.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're all learning a lot through this pandemic. If we look back to Friday the 13th of March, when we closed schools, there's a lot we've learned since then. What are some of the lessons that you would share with parents and employees who might be listening to the podcast?

Annie George:
I think one of the biggest things is that our message really hasn't changed over that course of time. There's been some small things, but we are encouraging very same things that we were encouraging at the beginning. Wearing masks, that criteria came a little bit later, but really, making sure that you're washing your hands and using appropriate respiratory etiquette. Covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough and making sure that you wash your hands frequently. That message has not changed.

And, as this has kind of gone on, we've learned about social distancing. I think that has surprised me almost more than anything, the importance of social distancing. Because I am involved in pulling the Dashboard Data and updating that every day, I see the spikes that happen after every holiday or we'll see evidence after a family reunion at Bear Lake. We've seen where people, a lot of people are gathered close together, how very quickly it can spread,

Superintendent Godfrey:
What are some of the really positive things that you've seen in terms of the way people have reacted and kind of risen to the challenge of trying to manage the pandemic?

Annie George:
I think that's one of the things that has inspired me most. Watching the unified effort that has taken place to fight Coronavirus. I saw that here at the Health Department level where we pulled in everybody. They stopped doing their normal day jobs and came to help us out. We had environmental health scientists that are normally watching air quality or doing restaurant inspections. They came to help us contact trace because the Infectious Disease, Epidemiology Bureau simply couldn't keep up with the demand anymore to do contact tracing. That's given us an opportunity to interact with people from other areas of the Health Department. We were all unified in an effort and that was empowering because, to be quite honest, it's been very difficult. We have worked really long hours and it's been for months now. So, it does put kind of a drain on you after a while, but it's also been empowering that we're all after the same mission. We've also had that experience to interact with other people in the community through this. I've worked with a lot of first responders, getting them data to help keep them safe. Being able to develop new community partnerships as well, has been awesome.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I've observed the same thing. Employees, parents, students, members of the community, just pitching in to make the best of things and it's really inspiring to see. Annie, thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate your time. Annie George, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist with Salt Lake County Health Department, thanks again for being on the Supercast.

Annie George:
You're welcome.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast and remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see out there.

Show Audio Transcription

It was a day in the cafeteria at West Jordan Middle School that some students will never forget. On this episode of the Supercast, hear how a 9th grade student sprang into action, using a technique he learned in health class, to save the life of his best friend who was choking. It is a story of heroism and a health teacher’s life-saving lessons.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent Godfrey:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It was a day in the cafeteria at West Jordan Middle School that some students will never forget. On this episode of the Supercast, hear how a ninth-grade student jumped into action, using a technique he learned in health class, to save the life of his best friend, who was choking. It's a story of heroism and to help teacher lifesaving lessons. We're here with two students at West Jordan Middle School that had an extraordinary experience last week. Tell me your names.

Jackson:  Jackson Johnson.

Hunter: Hunter Olsen

Superintendent Godfrey:
Jackson, and Hunter. So, Jackson, tell us what happened the other day in the cafeteria.

Jackson:
I got my lunch. I sat down and was eating it. I had hiccups throughout the day. So, I hiccup and a piece of chicken got stuck in my throat.  I was trying to see if I could cough it up but nothing happened. So, I turned around and I signaled to my friend "I'm choking" and then he got up and did the Heimlich.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And that's your friend, Hunter, that did that. Did you have to get his attention? What was the choking sign that you gave?

Jackson:
I just put my hands over my throat.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And so Hunter, you see this and what did you do?

Hunter:
My first instinct was just to come up and try to help as much as I could. That was pretty much just it.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So when you walked over to him, what happened? Did you just go right into Heimlich mode?

Hunter:
Yes, pretty much. I had to make sure he was actually choking first because we were all at the table, just laughing, just because we thought he was just choking on something little, like it went down the wrong tube or something. Then he was just coughing over the garbage can.

Superintendent Godfrey:
When you first realized, I'm really choking here, what did you do to get their attention?

Jackson:
Well, they were all looking at me because I thought I was messing around. I turned and I looked dead at Hunter and I started putting my hands over my throat saying "I'm choking" while signaling it. And then he realized it and hopped up. Well, everyone else just thought it was still a joke.

So, I just decided, I'm going to focus on one person and that person is Hunter, and I'm going to make sure I get his attention. Because I knew he would actually do something.

Superintendent Godfrey:
That's pretty awesome. What made you know that Hunter was the guy to take action and save your life?

Jackson:
The two other kids kind of weren't paying attention, and the other one was my brother who, the whole time, was kind of just saying, "Call home", because he really wanted to go home.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Okay. So, Hunter is the go-to guy.

Hunter:
When he turned around, he kind of had a look in his eyes like, "Oh shoot, it's actually in there and I can't get it out myself". So, I thought, okay. I just stepped up and adrenaline shot up. I just went into autopilot I guess, and just did what I learned in health class and I've seen her at work.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So you did feel that surge of adrenaline, you kind of realized, "Hey, something's really wrong here". And have you felt that other times in your life before? Is there a comparable moment?

Hunter:
Yeah, a few years ago when I played football. If you get a big tackle or the whole team's depending on you to stop a play or something, it's just that kind of agenda and that adrenaline rush. It was kind of like that on steroids.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And so your friend seems to be joking, you're laughing around, you realize he's actually choking, you get the adrenaline rush and you said you went into autopilot now. I don't know that I have autopilot for that sort of situation. We'd all like to think that we do, but I don't think we do. So how were you prepared for that situation?

Hunter:
I think I just paid attention in health class and I learned the practice in there and I just put it into real life.

Superintendent Godfrey:
How recently had you learned the Heimlich Maneuver?

Hunter:
Last year, in eighth grade.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So you paid attention in health class? That's an awesome thing. And it was last year, so you really did pay attention. Have you ever done the Heimlich before this time?

Hunter:
No. If this was my first time.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And so did you have to think about what to do or did you just do it?

Hunter:
Well, I just remembered kind of where to put my hands and I just kind of did it.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're here in the cafeteria where it happened and Jackson is standing right there. Can you reenact it for us? Can you kind of show us? Let's see. Start choking Jack. Okay. What did you do? Jackson?

Jackson:
I put my arms up so that he could reach around.

Hunter:
I'm shorter than Jackson.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Let's see you try that. We're here in the cafeteria, where it happened? Let's see, you stand back there and you just went, right?

Jackson:
Oh, a little bit too high and then he pushed.

Superintendent Godfrey:
He pushed it also. So, Jack, you pushed his hands down to get his hands into the right position?

Jackson:
Yeah.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And how many times did you have to do it?

Hunter:
It was like four times before I actually popped it up.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So Jack, what were you feeling? Were you both feeling that high level of stress as it's happening? I'm assuming, yes. I don't think I've ever done the Heimlich Maneuver. I don't remember ever doing that on someone. So, the meat then came out of your throat, right? And how did you feel right in the aftermath of that?

Jackson:
I was shocked that actually had come out because it felt like it was pretty stuck and I was also relieved to be able to breathe.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Were you holding your throat afterward trying to swallow and did you feel fine afterwards?  What did you say to a Hunter afterward?

Jackson:
I said thank you.

Superintendent Godfrey:
One of the biggest, thank you's of your life, I would guess.

Jackson: Yeah.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, did you tell your parents about what happened?

Jackson:
They saw it as soon as they posted the thing on Instagram about Hunter.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Oh yeah, you posted it on Instagram?

Jackson:  The school did.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Oh, the school did. And so that's how they found out?

Jackson:  Yeah.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, they found out from the school Instagram account before you told them.

Jackson:
Yeah.  Then they called me down to call my parents.

Superintendent Godfrey:
How did your parents react once you talked with them about it?

Jackson:
My mom was relieved that I was alive. My dad came up to me and said, "Start chewing your food now."

Superintendent Godfrey:
Lessons to be learned all around. Pay attention in health class to your food and sometimes your friends aren't joking. They really do need your help.

Jackson:  Yeah.

Superintendent Johnson:
I really liked your description of the way the adrenaline kind of came up and the way that you, Jackson, described how you knew you were in trouble at a certain point. You knew it was really lodged in there. There are those moments that, figuratively, we feel that there's danger, that we know there's something we need to do and that we need help. And those moments that Hunter experienced, where we know its time for us to step up and somebody needs us and we need to do that right now. Whether it's your teammates that you described or whether it's saving your friend's life. How does it feel when I say that sentence, "Saving your friend's life"?

Hunter:
It's pretty shocking. I'd never thought I'd really save one of my friend's life, in that moment, but it's just kind of shocking.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So as a ninth grader, you've saved your friend's life. What's next for you now? I mean, it's always onward and upward. What's the next big achievement?

Hunter:
I don't really know. If something comes up again, I'll jump in.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I have to say that we all hope that we would do what you did, but it's pretty impressive that you were able to remember what needed to happen and you jumped in and just took action, because a lot of times, someone's going to run for help instead of be the help. And it's pretty awesome that you were the help and thank you. What kind of bond did this create between you two?

Hunter:
I think we had a pretty strong bond before because we hang out a lot. His dad was my old football coach, so we got to spend a lot of time together. But I think it even strengthened that brotherhood that we have together and I'm just really glad that he's my friend.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What do you think Jackson?

Jackson:
I'd have to say the same thing.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, do the two of you pay as good attention in your other classes as you did to your health class?

Hunter:
Some of them. I liked my health class a lot. The teacher really had an impact on us.

Superintendent Godfrey:  I would say if you pay as good attention in other classes, as you did in health and you apply your learning from those other classes, as well as you did in your health class, then you have great things ahead of you.

So, we pulled up some security footage and we actually can watch it. Have you guys seen this video yet?

Jackson and Hunter:
No.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Okay. We're going to watch it and then we're going to get your reaction. Okay. So, what happens here?

Jackson:
I started choking and you can see Julio pointed and laughed at me.

Hunter:  We're all laughing at him.

Superintendent Godfrey:
You're leaning over at the table.

Jackson:  Yeah. I'm trying to cough it up into the garbage can.

Superintendent Godfrey:
You're pointing your throat.

Jackson:
And then, yeah.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Wow. You really use some force Hunter.

Hunter:  Yeah.

Jackson:
This is where I moved his hands down.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Hunter, it didn't work at first and you just kept going. Wow! That was six times you lifted him off the ground.

Hunter:
Yeah. And right at the end I put my arms up and I yelled for my health teacher named Ms. Howa.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So you celebrated her. Oh wow! That's amazing! You lifted him off the ground a couple of times is pretty strong.

Hunter:
Yeah, obviously.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, all that football that Jack's dad coached you in prepared you for this as well, because you really put some strength behind that. And what was impressive is that you didn't give up. You just kept going. You didn't say, "Hey, I've done it a few times. It's not working". You stayed with it.

Hunter:
Yeah.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I think we need to freeze frame the moment where you put your hands up and say her name, and we need to put that in a frame for your teacher.

Hunter:  Okay.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're going to do that. That's pretty impressive.

Hunter:
And then Julio, our friend right there, he went to go tell the hall monitor.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So Julio went for help. Yeah. We're watching this again. That's just amazing. He just stayed with it. And were you okay after that? Did your throat hurt for a long time after that?

Jackson:
I was all right. It didn't really hurt.

Superintendent:
Did you finish your chicken sandwich?

Jackson:  Yeah.

Superintendent Godfrey:
It's a real pleasure talking to both of you and I'm just proud of what you guys have done. You kept your head in a very difficult circumstance and that's going to serve you well in the future. Great job. Wow. That's incredible.

Stay with us. When we come back, hear from the health teacher whose classroom lesson helped save a life.

Sandra Riesgraf:
Are you looking for a job right now? Looking to work in a fun and supportive environment with great pay and a rewarding career? Jordan school district is hiring. We're currently feeling full and part time positions. You can work and make a difference in young lives and education as a classroom assistant or a substitute teacher. Apply to work in one of our school cafeterias where our lunch staff serves up big smiles with great food every day. We're also looking to hire custodians and bus drivers in Jordan School District. We like to say people come for the job and enjoy the adventure. Apply today @ workatjordan.org.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're here with Kathy Howa, a teacher at West Jordan Middle School. Kathy, you've had a significant impact of the school in just a few short years. You were Hunter's teacher, who performed the Heimlich on Jackson in the school cafeteria and saved his life. How does that feel?

Kathy Howa:
I'll tell you what, it's probably the highlight of my career. I don't think a teacher could be thanked any more than somebody listening in their class and being able to save another person's life.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I'll agree with you there. This is an awesome feather in your cap. You know, teachers have a big impact on students and sometimes it is not so evident and immediately as this. I talked with Hunter and he says, it's information from your class last year that helped him jump into action. What do you think of that?

Kathy Howa:
It's pretty amazing. As a teacher, you always wonder if the student is listening and you know that they're not going to get all the information, but it's a great thing to know that he listened. The other thing is that he had the power to jump up and actually do it. That was amazing because all of us ask ourselves, what would I do in that particular situation. And to know that kid was brave enough to do that was so amazing. And what an impact, he saved someone's life.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What that says to me is you didn't just teach them the procedure. You gave your student the confidence to act on what you taught.

Kathy Howa:
Thank you. I hope that happens. There's a lot of things in health that are so important that these kids learn because it's their life. And especially as adolescents, you know, that they're learning what we need them to learn right now with a lot of the subjects.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What you taught Hunter had an impact because he loved your class. That's what he told me.

Kathy Howa:
Oh, that melts my heart. And it definitely does that. The kids are just everything. And you know, if you just lead them to where you need to lead, hopefully they'll become great human beings in our community.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Now, I'm going to guess that Hunter didn't walk into health class on the first day and say, "You know what, I'll bet this is going to be my favorite class". But as soon as he gets to know you and starts to see how things are in the classroom, it becomes a favorite class because of the teacher, because of you.

Kathy Howa:
Thank you. That means a lot. Thank you so much.

Superintendent Godfrey:
There's an exciting tidbit that I learned as we watched this video with Hunter and Jackson. We watched the video of a Hunter actually performing the Heimlich. And after he knew that Jackson was okay, he celebrated by putting both fists in the air and he yelled, "Howa, woah!" So, he shouted out your name after he'd saved Jackson's life.

Kathy Howa:
I just heard that, just lately. I wish I would have been there, but what a special thing. I don't think I'll ever top this, you know? Just things that happen in your career. I don't think there's a better reward. There just isn't.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, it's a great achievement. And it's a reflection of the 28 years of great teaching you've been doing and connecting to kids and helping them understand the importance of what you're teaching. So, thanks for being a great example of what an awesome teaching looks like.

Kathy Howa:
Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And you're going to be extending the Heimlich Maneuver unit in your class?

Kathy Howa:
Well, right now I'm just hoping that we can get to where the kids can actually have the hands-on practice. We do a practical where they have to pass a test in the classroom. So, I'm hoping to get there. I wish I was doing it sooner instead of at the end of my two quarters. I would teach this a lot sooner.

Superintendent Godfrey:
It's one of the favorite stories that I've heard in a long time. It's been a pleasure talking with you, and it was great talking with the students as well. So, thanks for everything you're doing and keep up the great work. Thank you so much.

Thanks again for joining us on the Supercast and remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today, wherever you are. We'll see you.

Show Audio Transcription

On this episode of the Supercast, we take you inside some classrooms with Rich Saunders, Interim Executive Director of the Utah Department of Health. Mr. Saunders stopped by to see first-hand how teachers and students are doing and learning during the pandemic.

But first, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey heads out to the Herriman High football field to meet the young man behind a history making touchdown.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent Godfrey:
Hello, and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. We take you inside some classrooms in Jordan School District on a tour with Rich Saunders, executive director of the Utah Department of Health. Mr. Saunders stopped by to see first-hand how teachers, students, and administrators are doing during the pandemic.

But first we head out to the Herriman High School football field to meet the young man behind a history making touchdown. We are here at Herriman High School with running back Nu'u Tafisi. In August, the entire nation was hungry for sports, and the first football game in the nation was played at Herriman High School. And you were the first one to score a touchdown in the nation this year. How did that feel?

Nu'u:
Ah, you know, so good. Just going out to play football with my boys. We had to wear face masks on the sideline and, you know, just going through everything with the COVID is just something that we had to adapt to.  And we did, as you can see in the film. I celebrate with my line, you know, we had it every time.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I like how you talked about celebrating with your line. Nobody does it alone. There are a lot of people that participated in that, but you got to carry the ball across the line.

Nu'u:
The line is everything to me, you know.  Without a line, I can't do anything as a running back.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, there's a lot for us to all learn from. We're relying on each other more than ever just to get through the pandemic and make sure that everybody has as much opportunity at school and athletics and activities and in the classroom as well. So, it's a great example of what we're all trying to do. Has being part of football helped you through the pandemic because we were all isolated for a long time? Did it feel good to be back with everyone?

Nu'u:
Yes, definitely. You know, being at home and quarantined is really waring and, just to get something for the people to watch, you know, some sort of entertainment is good.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, do you get energy from the fact that people are watching and cheering you on? Is that an important part of what you're doing on the field?

Nu'u:
Yes, definitely. Without the fans, I don't even think that'd be playing football.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Thanks to Nu'u Tafisi for stopping for an interview. I know you've got to get there and practice for tomorrow night's game. So, good luck out there.

Nu'u:  Thank you.

Superintendent Godfrey:  We're here with Brock Hollingsworth at Herriman High School. Brock, tell us what sports do you play? What positions do you play?

Brock:
I play football. I would play track to get ready for football, get my speed up, but mainly football. I play safety, corner, receiver, return kicks, or return punts, you know, just wherever coach needs me. Just get a little burst going. That's where, that's where I like to go and just get some energy going in the field.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I rely on people like you, people I can put anywhere to do what needs to be done. So that's awesome. How did they feel to get to return as an athlete this fall, after being cooped up in the spring because of the pandemic?

Brock:
Oh, it was amazing. Like you're just aching to play football. I've been playing football since I was a little boy. And so, it was, it was on a cycle, you know.  You get this much off of football and then you go and play it again. And the fact that it could have been taken away this year, it felt like it wasn't on the same cycle. He had to wait a little longer. I was just aching and itching to get back out there and just get working with the boys.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Do you think you played with a greater intensity because you had this kind of pent up desire to get on the field and to be with your team?

Brock:
Oh yeah. You're always going to play with a different intensity on the first game. You go out and everyone's got the first game jitters. Especially how we haven't been able to play for so long and being able to practice and stuff. That definitely is a big, factor going into that game and knowing that we were on TV and stuff. That was also a little urge. So, it gets people going on that too.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Yes. You have national attention just because you were playing and that adds a different layer to everything when you know you're on that stage.

Brock:
Oh yeah. You know there weren't that many people in the stands, but in your mind, you know that there's people watching at home. People I have never even talked to before were texting me after the game saying good game, this and that. And I was thinking, "Wait, I've never talked to you before my life". So just knowing that they're watching, that means like a lot more people are watching and it's just crazy.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, I think you have an opportunity to see just how much it means to people to be able to watch high school athletics and be part of that. It's exciting for us as a district to know that we're so well represented by you here at Herriman High.

Brock:  Oh yeah.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, are you still feeling that level of intensity, that excitement that you had at the start?

Brock:
Oh yeah. You always want to come with the same intensity, same excitement. We love the game and we know the community loves the game and, just going out there and if you look at the ticket sales, the tickets sell out in 30 seconds, it's crazy. People are really ready to get out and watch a game. And so, knowing that all those people are watching and you got to go give them a show, because the community means so much. Our fundraisers, all of that stuff, they do that for us we can go and play. And, I feel like we did like a really good job, especially on protocol. I feel like the community followed that a lot, wearing their masks and staying in their sections, this and that.

So, I know there was a team that was ended up having to stop the game for a little bit because they weren't following protocol. And the fact that we didn't have to do that because our community is so good with that wants to see us play. It's just phenomenal feeling.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, you're feeling a high level of community support.

Brock:  Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And inherent, you'll always feel that everyone loves their football, especially here. So, it's just a crazy feeling going on there.

Superintendent Godfrey:  Did it feel different to you playing this year or as soon as you got on the field did it just feel like football again?

Brock:
It was a little different, you know, like you can actually hear the cadence from the quarterback, and you don't hear the whole fans screaming and stuff. But knowing that you're still out there battling out in a game, playing against another team. I mean, you practice against your own team the whole summer so it feels good.

So, going out and playing against the different teams, it's crazy going out and seeing someone on the other side of the ball that you don't know their strengths. So, you just go out there and you just play and have fun. And when you make a good play, your boys are out there with you celebrating. I mean, football is football. That's just what it is.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, I'm looking forward to making it to a game. So, I'll see out on the field. Thanks a lot for taking time to talk with us. I'll let you get back to practice so that you can have a great Friday.

Brock:
Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for taking time.

Superintendent Godfrey:
My pleasure.

Stay with us. When we come back, we'll take you inside some classrooms with Rich Saunders, Executive Director of the Utah State Department of Health.

Sandra Riesgraf:
Are you looking for a job right now? Looking to work in a fun and supportive environment with great pay and a rewarding career? Jordan School District is hiring. We're currently filling full and part time positions. You can work and make a difference in young lives and education as a classroom assistant or a substitute teacher. Apply to work in one of our school cafeterias where our lunch staff serves up big smiles with great food every day. We're also looking to hire custodians and bus drivers in Jordan School District. We like to say to people, "Come for the job and enjoy the adventure". Apply today at workatjordan.org.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're here with Rich Saunders, the Executive Director of the Utah State Health Department, and he's been visiting a couple of our schools. Rich, thanks for spending the day with us.

Rich Saunders:
It has been a pleasure, and I'm amazed at the great work that's being done by your people here. The students, as well as the faculty and the staff, the administration, it's been remarkable.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, it's been great having you. I think it's very validating for teachers to see you here. Why is it important to you? I know you've been visiting schools around the State. Why is it important for you to visit schools?

Rich Saunders:
Well, we have a lot of concerns and a lot of interest in kids being able to come back to school, to be able to have in-person learning. It's a very high priority. We know it's a very important aspect of the children's lives. And we have a pandemic in our community and around the world. And we're trying to figure out how do we get the kids to safely come back to school and have effective learning, and yet balance that in with the right type of protection. We have a mask order. That's been implemented as a public health order. It's important that we understand that effective learning can take place with the masks. And if there are areas that are of a significant concern, that we address those so that we don't cause irreversible damage to the child's learning. That's why I'm out in the schools, to get an in-person look at how the kids are responding and to learn from teachers and the staff, any kind of feedback that they have about, sanitization and other protocols that take place for the experience to be wonderful in the schools.

And you know, what I'm most excited about is that the kids are happy. They were getting along just fine. They're doing well. They have to make a little sacrifice wearing a mask over their nose in their face for most of the time, but they're happy and they're doing well. It's good to see that I've observed

Superintendent Godfrey:
The same thing. It's nice to see how much the kids enjoy being back at school. And its kids being kids, even though at the same time, they're following the rules that we've put in place. We were out at lunch and they were distanced and kids were wearing masks. And yet they still ask the goofy middle-school questions. When you came to visit one of their classes, what else have you observed as you've been out in schools?

Rich Saunders:
I have observed a lot. One of the things that has been most impressive is how willing the adults, the leadership, this, the staff, the administration has been. The level of effort everyone has been willing to employ to be able to make this happen. It has been touching to me, emotional and very impressive to see the sacrifice of these great people to the youth. for them to be able to pay the price, do whatever it takes to get these kids back into the classroom. That has been very touching to me.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What message would you have for educators who are currently engaged in making the best of things during this pandemic?

Rich Saunders:
You know, it's a hard balance. We have a lot of unknown territory in this pandemic with this virus. We know a lot now, and it's tricky to step into the teaching environment where you've got a bunch of kids and where there's possible transmission. There's some risk. And I just want to express my thanks to those teachers who are willing to try to lead these kids. And we're doing everything we can to work with science and medicine and the world of education too, to come together and figure out where this balance is so that we can be effective. I think you know we care about the health and safety of the teachers. We care that they feel safe. We want to make sure that they have plenty of PPE and the things that they need to be able to perform their functions safely. We really do care and we really want to work together to make this be an effective experience for all involved.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What would you like parents to know?

Rich Saunders:
It's easy to get caught up in the emotions of what is going on. We have personal opinions of what matters most when we're in this kind of an environment. We try to put our emotions aside and figure out how to work together at it. And the kids are great. They're resilient, they're adaptable. They really want to progress forward. And I think if we all had that same mentality to try to work together, compromising where we need to sacrificing, whatever it takes to progress instead of stop and be stagnant. I think that is the place that we just do what it takes to work together.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We want to thank Rich Saunders again, not just for stopping to talk with us for the Supercast, and especially for visiting our schools and our classrooms. We appreciate all your hard work. It's obvious how much you care about the outcome. And, we just really loved having it today.

Thank you. This has been my pleasure and my compliments to the parents, to the students, to the faculty and the staff, the administration. This is a tremendous undertaking and is my privilege to be a part of it. Thank you.

Thanks for joining us. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.

 

Show Audio Transcription

After nearly six months of silence, there is once again music filtering out into the halls of Mountain Ridge High School. In this episode of the Supercast, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey stops by music teacher Kelly DeHaan’s classroom where he visits with students who are making beautiful music again as part of the Mountain Ridge Madrigals. They are singing wearing masks, doing all they can to be Sentinel Strong and stay in school.


Audio Transcription

Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. After nearly six months of silence, there is once again music filtering out into the halls of Mountain Ridge High School. That music is coming from the masked singers, otherwise known as the Mountain Ridge Madrigals. I had the pleasure of visiting music, teacher Kelly DeHaan's classroom, where the Madrigals were rehearsing. All of them wearing masks and eager to share their passion about music and being Sentinel strong so they can stay in school.

Madrigals practicing The Star-Spangled Banner

Kelly DeHaan:
Nice. Put your music to your side if you're off, if you're done.

Kelly DeHaan sings welcome to Dr. Godfrey

Superintendent Godfrey:
I feel pressure to sing, "Yes, I am!"  It's very intimidating being with this group. I would love to have your talents and abilities, or at least your instructor. Is this Madrigals?

Kelly DeHaan:
This is our Madrigal choir, the most elite choir of the school.

Superintendent Godfrey:
The Madrigal choir. Wow! Did you have to try out for this choir?

Kelly DeHaan:
Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And so, was that a virtual tryout in the spring?

Kelly DeHaan:
No. We had actual auditions just before COVID happened. Right. With this class, we got done.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, the tryouts were in March?

Kelly DeHaan:
Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Wow. Very early. So, your path was forged very early in your junior year. That's fantastic. So, do you work on stuff over the summer or do you just kick right in when the school starts?

Kelly DeHaan:
Usually we do summer activities, but this year I didn't feel safe doing so. And so, we had our first time singing together on Monday.

Superintendent Godfrey:
How did it feel? Anybody raise your hand? Tell me how it felt.

Student:
We missed this class so much.  I missed singing with other people, not something I couldn't do virtually, but now That we are all together as a group, I feel like you can find the Sentinel spirit of joy right here.

Superintendent Godfrey:
That seems to sum up how you feel.  Being together as one thing, singing together as another, I would think.

Kelly DeHaan:
Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're going to step outside and interview a few students from Mr. DeHaan's Madrigal class. That's what I call it. What was it? Is its High Madrigals or Turbo Madrigals? Elite Madrigals! The Super Madrigals are here with me? And tell me your names.

Students:
I'm Alex, I'm Chelsea, I'm Savannah,

Superintendent Godfrey:
How does it feel to be back in class, particularly this class?

Student:
It is a wonderful, I think I missed singing. It's something you can't really replicate online, something I really missed, along with just being with all my classmates.

Student:
Particularly to this class, I find it very relieving to be back in the classroom with the energy that Kelly DeHaan brings to it. And knowing that we worked hard for the place that we're at, especially as second years, and it feels really glad to have that gratification back into our lives and just feeling fulfilled.

Student:
Yeah. I feel complete and whole again. I felt so empty without having a way to express myself through song. And coming to this class, it's just a whole different experience. It's almost like it takes you away from the stresses of school and you just let it all out. And the people are amazing. We're all really great friends. We all love each other. We all support each other so much. And it's just so fun to be around people that I know like me and I like them.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, it's kind of comfort because you've all sung together before for you to be in Madrigals. You've had some previous experience and you tried out for that. How does it feel different from other choir classes that you've had in the past now that we have these precautions in place as well?

Student:
The mask, I've got to say, it is a really big deal. And we are not sitting exactly next to each other so we can't hear each other anymore. It is very individual, so it's a lot more work to make sure we have our part because we don't know what it sounds like anymore. We have to trust in our own skills, that we know that we're singing the right parts and we have to trust in Kelly, that he is directing us in the right way.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Even though you are together in the same space and it feels great to be back together, you're still a little bit more isolated than you normally would be.

Student:
Adding on to that, it's really hard because in the masks, you can really only hear yourself. You can't really hear other people. And it's really hard to suck in as much air as you can because you're basically breathing in a mask and sometimes it like gets right in to your mouth. And you're looking at, you know, and it's really hard to tell when you're projecting and if you're projecting enough. So, if we're performing in the gym or in the auditorium, sometimes it's we practice quieter because we're in masks and we can hear really well that it doesn't come off as loud as it would in an open space.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I see. So, you're not going to wear a mask after you don't have to when you're singing, is what I'm gathering.

Student:
The second that they say masks are done, they're gone!

Superintendent Godfrey:
But I heard a student in class say he do just about anything in terms of procedures in order to be back. Do you feel the same way?

Student:
Absolutely.  I definitely do. So, what we are hoping for 2021 is that some restrictions may be lifted. If that means I have to wear my mask, or even that means we go online for a little bit of time. I will take that sacrifice, if that means I get to sing with my choir again.

Student:
Mr. DeHaan compared having a mask on to a cross country athlete that was wearing weights on his shoes and he walked around and then when he took them off for his race, he was able to run a lot faster. So, I think we're learning different ways, and once we do take those off, we'll be better singers and better have different perspective on things.

Student:  Yes, believe me, my diction and projection has amplified tenfold.

Student:  And breathing also because you have to take an extra air just to make sure you have it.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, I think that's true. Even when we're talking, I think we'll be shouting at each other for a while after these masks come off and our personal space is going to be really big because we're so used to distancing.

Student:
I mean, I'm not complaining about the personal circle thing, but....

Superintendent Godfrey:
Was it what you expected or is it a different from what you were anticipating?

Student:
I've been really impressed with everybody. All the administration was really planned out well. You can tell there's a lot of procedures that they're following. Each of the teachers knows exactly what they're doing and what they have to do. And students have been awesome with wearing masks, which we were surprised about. But everybody's just on board and is seeing this as a link to getting one step closer and being in school.

Student:
Yeah, that's what I really love about this school. I feel like everybody's so passionate about being here that they will do anything in their possible way to be here. And I'm really amazed how respectful they are and the teachers. They're amazing. They're very kind in saying, "Hey, please put up your masks because I want to be here with you". The teachers want to be here with us as much as we want to be with them.

Student:
I am also liking the added unity that this has brought upon our school. Before, in our first year, it was a whole bunch of schools coming together, trying to be one. I think with this, it's this added, "We're Mountain Ridge and we're going to stay and we want to stay here. We choose to be here right now."

Student:
I truly very, very passionately believe in Sentinel Strong because I feel like every kid here has that part of them inside of them. And they all just are strong as people. And so, I just think that's amazing.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So it's not just being back that's unifying. It's doing whatever it takes to stay back that's unifying. Great. Well, it's really fun being in a class. It's really fun seeing you guys. Let's head back in and do a little more singing or you guys can do a little bit more singing.

Kelly DeHaan:
So we won't do the solos at the beginning. We'll do we'll just do all the men and all the women to help us.

Madrigals singing

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back here, more music from the Madrigals and find out what they're doing to stay safe while learning and doing what they love.

Sandra Riesgraf:
Are you looking for a job right now, looking to work in a fun and supportive environment with great pay and a rewarding career?  Jordan School District is hiring. We're currently filling full and part time positions. You can work and make a difference in young lives and education as a classroom assistant or a substitute teacher. Apply to work in one of our school cafeterias where our lunch staff serves up big smiles with great food every day. We're also looking to hire custodians and bus drivers in Jordan School District. We like to say, "People come for the job and enjoy the adventure. Apply today at http://workatjordan.org.

More singing from Madrigals - School Anthem

Kelly DeHaan:
Can anyone tell me why I extended the lines as a musician?

Student:
Because it gives a little time for the meaning of the words to be absorbed.

Kelly DeHaan:
I wrote this song for our school and I'm really proud of it. I think you are one of the first people who got to hear it. This is our school. It means a lot to me. I came into the room and the school was still under construction and it's so beautiful and perfect. And the song just kind of wrote itself.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Did you realize that you don't just have a teacher? You have an artist in residence? Yes, you do.

Kelly DeHaan:
I tell them all the time, how good I am. (laughter)

Superintendent Godfrey:
I will back you up on that. Can we hear that song?

Kelly DeHaan:
They're sight reading a lot of them and some of them. No? Okay, yes, stand up.  We won't do the solos at the beginning. We'll just do all the men and all the women.

More singing

Superintendent Godfrey:
Alright, Nathan, are you a junior or senior?

Nathan:
I'm a senior this year.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Alright. Nathan is in the Madrigals class we're visiting today. Nathan, you said something in class that I thought was remarkable. You'd do pretty much anything to be here.

Nathan:
Yes. I would volunteer to follow 12 more policies if it meant being able to be here and singing. I will admit I was concerned about singing in masks, but we're making it work. It may not be ideal, but I'm so grateful to be here.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And they're singing safely. Now that you're back at school, is it what you expected or not?

Nathan:
Some of both. I mean, we went in knowing we'd have to wear masks and there would be social distancing, to the extent possible and we'd be cleaning.  So that part I expected. But what I did not expect was all of the positivity where normally people aren't willing to be in school. But everybody I've talked to is 100% willing to be back in school because we've missed it so much.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, there's not just a pent-up desire to be at school, but there's a pent-up desire to do whatever it takes to stay in school.

Nathan:
Exactly.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What did you miss most about being at school?

Nathan:
I missed all of the social relationships, from being in choir, from being in the lunch room, school kind of revolves around being with people. So being stuck at home for six months was really hard for me.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And I'm sure, for a lot of people, you've only just started back. Does it already feel easier to learn in person than it did online?

Nathan:
Infinitely. Being in person with a real teacher that can give you face to face feedback. You can feed off your classmates. Using technology is great, but being here is something that you just can't fully replicate.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, here's to a great year. Thanks for talking with me, Nathan.

Nathan:
Thank you.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Madrigals is the type of class that was considered a special class with some additional potential risk because of the singing and exhaling and all of that. And you have taken some very thoughtful, deliberate precautions. Can you walk us through those?

Kelly DeHaan:
Sure.  As the students come in, we take their temperatures and we ask them if they have any symptoms and I show them a symptom chart. And if the answer that they don't have any symptoms and they pass the temperature test, then they can come into their pre-assigned seating that has been socially distanced for them. I've put pictures of all the students who share those chairs on the chair so the students feel, so they know, so we can trace if there's any problems at all. We know exactly where they were sitting on that day. We keep a record of all of our seating charts, and then the students wear their masks always while they're singing. And they stay socially distance like this for the whole rehearsal. They have assigned slots for their music to go into that keeps everything safe and neat so we don't have to sanitize the music each time. And then at the end of class my student teacher and I go through and we sanitize each chair that has come in contact with people.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, it's working great. And talking with students in the class, anything you have to do is worth it to give them the chance to be.

Kelly DeHaan:  We all feel that way.

Superintendent Godfrey:
How does it feel to have our students back?

Kelly DeHaan:
It's, everything, it's everything. I didn't realize as an educator, how much of my self-perception and happiness was dependent on being able to reach out to kids and especially through music. And now that they're back, I feel like I'm back. Isn't that strange? I feel like I've been a little bit vacant and in that hazy Netflix world. And now I have these kids back, it's like my life is back.  I'm so happy.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I that's the sentiment I'm hearing everywhere I go. And I guess I'd ask, is it what you expected? Is it different from what you expected?

Kelly DeHaan:
Better than I could have ever expected. And it's harder than I knew it would be. It's hard. It's worth every second.

Superintendent Godfrey:
There are still obstacles, aren't there, even though we're back together?

Kelly DeHaan:
So many, we'll get it. We'll figure it out.

Superintendent Godfrey:
It'll get better and better. And when those obstacles are gone, it'll be like we're walking three inches off of the ground.

Kelly DeHaan:
Oh, it's going to be so great to get rid of these nasty masks, but we'll keep doing it.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Congratulations on being back together and having this experience. I know you're going to enjoy it, make the most of it and have a great year. Enjoy it.

Thank you for joining us for the 50th Episode of the Supercast. Remember, "Education is the most important thing you'll do today". We'll see you out there.

 

Show Audio Transcription

As our schools prepare to welcome students back, principals are excited to see the new school year begin after having buildings empty for nearly six months. In this episode of the Supercast, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey talks to some principals about their hopes for a safe and successful school year despite changes brought on by the pandemic.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent Godfrey:
Hello, and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It has been a long, and some might say "lonely", six months for principals, who are used to having schools filled with students, teachers, and staff involved in learning, and so many other exciting activities that bring a school community together. On this bonus episode of the Supercast, we sit down with a few principals. Hear from a counselor to find out how they plan on welcoming everyone back, and the excitement that surrounds having students in school. Again, we're here at Mountain Creek Middle School with Kimberly Stewart, the Department Chair of the Language Arts department here, a teacher, and also a parent of elementary age students in the District. Thanks for talking with us.

Kimberly:
You're welcome.

Superintendent Godfrey:
There's a lot to do preparing for the school year and department chairs, as we've tried to juggle online and in-person instruction, have had a pretty heavy load. Tell us a little bit about what you've been going through.

Kimberly:
So, I think for my department especially, we had a couple teachers that have gone online or partially online. So, we've had to cover, admit our department, cover the classes that are live as they take some other schools’ online classes. So, that's been kind of a stressful way to start the school year, to know that our schedules are changing. I think we've got our final schedules today. You know we have a few days before school starts, so it's been pretty stressful, but I feel my department's been really good at jumping in. I've got an English teacher that's going to be teaching dance for a period and taking creative writing. Everybody's been really good about this jumping in and helping each other out.

Superintendent Godfrey:
There has had to be a high level of flexibility that's for sure. And I know teachers and educators in general are very good at that, but unfortunately, there's been a need for even more than normal.

Kimberly:
Yes, for sure. I thought that last year, opening the new school was stressful, but this year has definitely been more required. A lot more flexibility.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Was the thought, it's going to be better next year? It's going to be easier next year? I really am impressed at just how hard people have worked and how flexible they've been. And that combination is what's going to get us through.

Kimberly:
Yeah. Yeah. And that's what I've really just told my teachers. We just need to be calm and confident when we're working with our students no matter what happens. If we go online, that's fine. We've done it. The students just know it's going to be okay and we're ready for it. And it's not going to freak anybody. We're going to be fine.

Superintendent Godfrey:
As you anticipate students returning, what are you most excited about?

Kimberly:
I'm just excited for their energy back in the building. We've seen some come in to see their lockers and get tours. And we just are so excited to see kids back in the building because that's where we get our excitement. We're expanding off their excitement and their energy. And that's really fulfilling for teachers to have that those relationships. And it was hard to do online in the spring. So, we're just really excited to have them back in here so that we can see them and interact with them and see them interact with each other. That's what I'm most excited about.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What are you concerned about or worried about? I know there's a lot to think about as the school year starts. What are your concerns going in?

Kimberly:
For me, the biggest thing is just the inconsistency with things. If we're on for two weeks and off for two weeks and not knowing how to plan for that, I'm a planner. And so, not knowing if I should be preparing things online or in-person or both. Especially having two elementary school students thinking about. If they quarantine for two weeks and I'm still working, or vice versa, that's going to be stressful to have to figure things out that way. Probably my biggest concern is, I just would like to stay in the building, working as long as possible.

Superintendent Godfrey:
This is a particularly difficult time for people who are planners. That's for sure. If you're a planner, this is the most difficult sort of thing you can imagine because of the level of uncertainty. I think everyone's feeling that and until we have students back, we won't really know how things are going to feel. This is the longest they've ever been out of school by a long shot. And I think everyone will take some adjusting. What do you anticipate in that way? What do you think will need to happen?

Kimberly:
I think what we've changed for the beginning of the year is we've just put a lot more thought into how are we going to connect with these students right away and how are we going to give them opportunities to connect with each other, even when we're trying to be really safe. Contact tracing and social distancing, about how to really still allow them to be social and build relationships with each other and with us. And so, we've built our curriculum a little bit differently. We've created moments where that can happen. And with Fridays creating some time where they can be on Zoom meetings or do some videos, they can watch each other and interact with each other in a pretty safe way. We just know those relationships are super important for middle school students.

Superintendent Godfrey:
You mentioned you're a parent of elementary age kids. So, what are your thoughts about sending them back to school?

Kimberly:
Well, my youngest, he's a three-year-old, and he's at the Daycare at Bingham and he's been there for a week and a half now. I was really worried about a three-year-old wearing a mask all day. I didn't know if he would do it and how the teacher would get 12 three-year-olds to wear their masks, but he hasn't had a problem. He just wears it and it's not a big deal. I have a first grader who really missed her friends and missed her teacher when she was a kindergarten in the spring. So, I'm excited for her to be back, but I'm just a little nervous about how the social distancing will affect them in elementary school. Her friends walk around and hold hands all the time. Right? They're just little girls and they love that. So, I'm a little nervous about that, but I think that kids are really resilient and I found that a lot of times, we, as adults, have a harder time adjusting to change than the kids will and that they're just going to find ways to still have fun and make school.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Great.

Kimberly:
Anyway, and I think those elementary teachers are thinking about all of those things and they're going to be really good about letting the kids still be kids.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Kimberly, thank you very much for talking with us. I wish you the best this school year. Your students are lucky to get to be back in the classroom with you.

Kimberly:
Thanks.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're here with Mike Glenn, Principal of Mountain Creek Middle School to talk about the coming school year. Mike, how have preparations been going for the coming year?

Mike:
Good. I think that the only part of it that's hard has just been the uncertainty and the changes. We'll make a plan and it looks good, and then we'll get another directive from either the State or the District. Things get adjusted. I think that's probably been one of the key challenges, trying to meet these needs. And I think probably the biggest issue for us is that we're trying to balance school safety with education, right? And those things don't always go together.

Superintendent Godfrey:
They do when we're talking about physical safety, but with COVID-19, it's a totally different ball game. So how do we really try to create an environment that's as close to normal as possible where the kids can learn and yet still remain healthy and safe opening a new school and then having the spring happen and then the fall, do you feel like it has ever stopped?

Mike:
Normally, at this point in your career, you get to enjoy the benefit of experience a little bit, but every decision you make is a new decision you've never had to make before. It probably feels like that's good because we're never bored, right? There's no complacency when every day is a new challenge. And from the one perspective, we were on such a high. I don't know that you would say high stress level, but we were functioning just trying to make everything happen.
Last year, the building, of course, was a little bit behind schedule and they were laying tile and washing the floors the same night, in each different hallway. And I think we had the last tile laid a couple of hours before the ribbon cutting ceremony. And so, we were always just barely staying ahead of the boulder that's chasing us down the hill. And then the spring hit and it kind of threw another wrench. We just thought we got a handle on things. And so, this year, in some ways it's a lot of change, but we've already been through that. And at least now it's a known thing. And so, I think, in a lot of ways, it's maybe less stressful than what we went through last year is we are planning to open the building.

Superintendent Godfrey:
There is a lot of uncertainty still, and I know things are still going to shift and change. Once the school year gets underway. But what are you most looking forward to with the start of the school year?

Mike:
Having some normalcy, so we know the kids. The kids bring so much positive energy with them. And so, having a routine established where they can come to school, we get to see them, they interact with the teachers, we're doing assessments. We're clear about the content, you know, the face-to-face instruction, and the new online learning we're going to do. We've already touched our toe in the water in the spring. The teachers that are doing the full online classes know they're more specific and more focused on what to do. And so even that's going to have a lot more of a solid image of what we need. And so, getting back to the routines and interacting with the kids and then moving them along so that they understand. That's what we're all about.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, the interaction with students really is the fuel for what we do. And it's been innovative to do it over a screen. It's been worthwhile to stay engaged, however we could. And a lot of effort has gone into making that meaningful, but there's nothing like having kids in the building and being face-to-face, even though the distance, even with plexiglass in-between you and be able to have those interactions.

Mike:
I think too, educators are as a rule, they love people and they love kids. And so, it was a great stop gap to be able to do Google Hangouts or Zoom or some kind of online thing, but really, what they need is that contact with the kids and that's where they make their connections. And so, reading the kids, such as body language in their eyes and understanding their frustrations and feeding off each other’s, that's where teachers thrive. And so, we're glad to have the kids back. We love that connection.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Thanks a lot for taking the time. I know you've got a ton to do. We'll let you get back to it, but here's to a great school year. And thanks for all the hard work you're doing.

Mike:
Thanks. We're excited. It's going to be great.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're going to take a quick break, and when we come back, a middle school counselor talks about the anxiety some may be feeling about coming back to school and how those feelings are expected after almost six months apart.

Sandra Reisgraf:
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Superintendent Godfrey:
We're here with Becky Hunsaker from the Counseling Department here at Mountain Creek Middle School to talk about preparations for the school year to come in just a few days. Thanks for taking a few minutes to talk with us.

Becky:
Absolutely. Thank you.

Superintendent Godfrey:
You opened a school just a year ago, and then we shut down in the spring and now we're opening under these circumstances and we've asked a lot of counselors, shuffling things around to provide those online opportunities. How does this compare with opening a new school?

Becky:
Oh man. There are so many unexpected things when you open up a new school. We all know each other now, we didn't know each other as a counseling team, as a staff, and we didn't know our students. And now that we know them, it's just a different ball game. In this process, we all have a part to play, you know, and now with COVID and shutting down and changing all of the schedules again, after getting the board finished and all the classes set in place in June, it's just been kind of something that we're used to. We're flexible. That's our main word we're using. We're flexible.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Flexibility is the name of the game. And like you said, everyone pitches in and this is changing everyone's life. Every employee, every parent, every student is living life a little differently now and has to be flexible. I used to love working on the schedule board, counting the number of seats per period. Not anymore though, not anymore. And I know that you guys have had to work really hard. What else has changed just as you prepare for the school year? I know that it's not just about schedules. It's also about helping students adapt to being back in school after being out for so long,

Becky:
Right. They are missing their friends. They are also, in survival mode from COVID. We all are, you know. Our flight response is more immediate because of that. You know the danger of having COVID, of dealing with that and all of the natures that come with it, that we are so worried about our kids and their mental health and their apprehension. When they come to school, we really just want to meet with each kid when they come back in the first quarter, check in and see how they're doing to make sure that we're on a good path to success and that they know they can come and reach us. And now we'll have to change up our processes a little bit, but with this new technology, we've been more accessible than ever.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What are you most concerned about as you anticipate the start of school?

Becky:
That's a really good question, Anthony. I'm worried for everyone. I think of every group. I'm worried about the students and what they're facing, it's different than what the teachers are facing. The teachers are amazing how flexible they've been and how willing they are to take on some online schedules to recreate their curriculum and if we go into lockdown, how to change their curriculum. All within 24 hours, you know, that was amazing. Teachers just have so many wonderful skills to be creative and are just in-tune with what their kids they need. They had to cut their curriculum down quite a bit. So, I worry about how they're adjusting to this. And I worry about my fellow counselors during this time because we're having to get on the phone and explain a lot of what's going on to the parents and the kids.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Right.

Becky:

But my biggest worry is community. I really want us all to feel like, yes, we have a mask. Yes, we have to socially distance, but we can still be a community. We can still be unified as a school again. And not as a counseling perspective as a counselor. I really want to see that again. I missed that connection between my students, that smile I could give them to them in the hallway, that high-five that I can no longer give them. That's what I I'm worried about is how can I connect with them? How can I help connection in the lunchroom being six feet apart? How are we going to give that social time because that is so important? As we face challenges with mental health support, connection is key. So that's my biggest concern is how do we make sure we have the connection?

Superintendent Godfrey:
What are you most excited about anticipating the start of the year?

Becky:
I just want to see the kids again, I've missed the kids. I've missed my team. I've missed the teachers. I miss that connection. What I'm excited for too, is just to feel whatever we can as normal, you know, be as close to normal as possible. That's what I want. And that's what I'm excited about, just to see bodies instead of a laptop in my kitchen. Right? That's what I'm most excited for. I just love the energy that the kids bring to me and to my life. And that was truly missing for me.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, thanks again. I know you've worked really hard. I know how much you care about kids. I met with you last year and you just are so focused on helping everyone around you, just like you described. So, thanks for everything you're doing and let us know how we can help.

Becky:
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Here's to a great year.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're here at Heartland Elementary with Principal Buddy Alger to talk about preparations for the coming school year. Buddy, what's on your mind as you prepare for the school year? There's a lot.

Buddy:
Yeah, you're right. There is a lot on my mind. One of the big things on my mind is our students and our teachers just being able to make sure and try to think about everything. I think that's one of the hardest tasks as a principal at this time, just having to try and think through every scenario for every teacher, for every student, for every staff member, so that I can help answer questions and trying to lift the burdens of stress that people are putting on themselves as they try and find those answers. I want to be able to be a support and be able to give guidance where I can.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What are you hearing from parents as the school year approaches?

Buddy:
You know, it's kind of a mixed bag. I'm hearing a lot of nervous excitement, right? It's the same feeling that's kind of in the school building. There's this nervous excitement. That's building from our teachers, from our staff members and I'm getting a lot of that from parents. Don't get me wrong. We're excited to have kids in building, but I need to know a couple of things and they just want to communicate. They want to know that we're being thoughtful about their kids, that we've considered the lunch room and how we're going to get their students to and from that. We have looked at healthcare plans, and 504 plans and students with IEPs. They want to know that we are looking into the best for their individual student. I had a mom say in a phone call was spot on. She said, "Buddy, I'm not worried about the whole school. I'm just worried about my son". And helping me connect to her son as an individual helped me conceptualize a lot of things about our plan and our processes. They are individual students. We may look at them sometimes as numbers in class lists and rosters. And boy are there a lot of lists. But as I've made my way through those, recognizing that each one also represents an individual somebody's child that they're sending to us so that we can work. Our magic as educators is felt like a daunting task, but also is an honor.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I think what you said makes a ton of sense and is exactly what we're all trying to get through this mix of emotions that really just boils down to wanting to take care of individual students and families and teachers and employees and give them what they need.

Buddy:
Yes.
Superintendent Godfrey:
I noticed that, of course, you're wearing your District name tag as all do, but you have a little extra accessory there. Tell me about that.

Buddy:
Oh yeah. Well, this was actually a gift from one of my second-grade teachers or my second-grade team so I could take hand sanitizer on-the-go, that no matter where I was, I could be safe

Superintendent Godfrey:
Kind of a hand sanitizer holster that you have clip clipped in on your name tag.

Buddy:
That is correct.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well done. I'm sure you'll be slinging. Plenty of that when school starts next week. Thanks for taking the time. I know you've got a lot on your plate. We really appreciate you stopping to talk with us.

Buddy:
Of course. Thank you.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on the Supercast. We wish you the best at school starts next week. And remember, education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see out there.

 

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