Global pandemic reveals guts and resiliency of the Gary schools

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Dr. Paige McNulty

It was the best of times, and just like that, it was the worst of times! Never would I have imagined that after only two weeks in the role of Interim Emergency Manager of the Gary Community School Corporation that a global pandemic would strike closing our schools for the remainder of the academic year. I had “great expectations” of meeting students, parents and community members while sharing our vision for moving the District forward.

COVID-19 has taught us many lessons as a school system, and most important, it has caused our team to come together in unprecedented fashion for the sake of our children.

With only days’ notice, we were challenged to convert our entire curriculum to a virtual platform. The passion and urgency assumed by teachers and administrators was amazing to witness. What started as educational packets being manually distributed and posted on our website soon transitioned into diverse and engaging online programming itemized by school. Loaner laptops have been distributed to our high school students, teachers are communicating with students and parents daily, and everyone is working to adjust to our new normal.

In addition to the establishment of e-learning was the commitment to continue our food service program. For many of our students, the breakfast and lunch provided by the District represents their main source of nourishment, and we couldn’t let this program fall by the wayside. Since mid-March, we have provided thousands of meals to families across the city. It took some trial and error to achieve a seamless distribution process, but thanks to our transportation and food service teams, security, parent liaisons and food vendor Sodexo, we have a solid plan in place to distribute 5-days’ worth of breakfast and lunch every Monday through the summer.

While I celebrate the strides we have made during these turbulent times, I can’t ignore the fallout that the outbreak of this virus has caused. Prom, graduations and a host of other academic ceremonies now hang in the balance. Standardized testing has been canceled this year. Summer school is poised to be a virtual experience. The daily classroom experience, as we know it, is no more until further notice. As a result, my heart aches as a mother of twin 10-year-old boys, and it aches for every child in the Gary schools.

Having served as a teacher, principal, administrator and superintendent, I am no stranger to crisis in our schools. In fact, it is during the most challenging times that we must show up with more determination, passion and dedication than ever to get the job done. We have set our sights on the future of the District, which includes the implementation of a permanent e-learning component and equipping every child with devices and internet access. They NEED it. They DESERVE it!

I would like to thank every staff member in the Gary Community School Corporation for stepping up and doing whatever is required in support of our youth. Our advisory board, Mayor Prince and a host of community leaders have also answered the call offering services, supplies, resources and even a listening ear as needed. Our parents continue to exemplify patience, and for this, we are incredibly grateful. Lastly, our students have shown a level of resiliency that is unmatched! I’m so proud of them.

While we don’t know what the future holds, I do know that our strength lies in our unity. One day at a time, we will get through this TOGETHER — Gary proud, Gary strong, Gary schools!

Dr. Paige McNulty, Interim Emergency Manager, Gary Community School Corporation

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