We could have never imagined 30 days ago, the incredible disruption that our families, our schools, our community, and our world would face. I am so thankful for the strong, resilient community we have in Cambridge-Isanti. We are indeed in this together.

In the past weeks, we have seen incredible energy and drive from our school staff as they pivoted to a distance learning model. We ramped up to deliver meals to children across our community and mobilized our organization for emergency childcare following the Governor’s Executive Order. As our local city, county, school, and hospital personnel have met, I have seen leaders ready to work together— whatever we may face.

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know it is essential to focus on child development during uncertain times.

I shared with our staff last week that our economy may slow, and our school buildings may close, but there is one thing that will not stop: the growth and development of our children. From age three to age 18, our children are at their peak social, emotional, physical, and intellectual brain development. 

The stories children hear will shape the narrative of their lives. The developmental relationships we build will give them the security and confidence to imagine a better future. The experiments they conduct, the discovery skills they develop, the curiosity we nurture in them will lay the foundation for future problem-solving. Most importantly, the connections that build in their brains today map a future of who they will become.

As educators, we have to focus on the positive and healthy development of our children. So, as our team embarked on distance learning last week, we have asked each of our teachers and staff to prioritize relationships and connections. We want every child to know that we love them and will always support them. Learning doesn’t happen if children are not confident that they are safe and cared for.

Learning doesn’t happen without a relationship.

As a school district team, we look at challenges as opportunities. How can we emerge from this pandemic as a stronger community? How can we help our children learn to cope with and overcome adversity? How can we continue to nurture their curiosity and creative problem-solving? How can we help them discover their passion, dive deeply into their areas of interest, and ignite a lifelong love of learning?

As distance learning began last week, we focused on reestablishing relationships and routines. We are making sure that children have the food they need, access to learning materials, and a human connection with their teachers (via phone or internet).

Last week, we saw a primary student introduce her class to baby chicks that just hatched at her home. We have seen our middle school students initiate #CIHearts on display—posting blue and white hearts on their home windows as a sign of the Bluejacket Pride. And we saw a Riverside Academy student celebrate graduation during the shutdown.

When the dust settles on this generational moment, we will be an even better school district. Better at relationships because we have prioritized intentional connections with kids and families. Better at using technology to enhance learning and connections. Better at expressing gratitude and appreciation for a safe, caring, and supportive community for children to thrive. 

Thank you, Cambridge-Isanti, for being strong and supportive. #InThisTogether #BluejacketWay.

DR. NATE RUDOLPH is superintendent of Cambridge-Isanti School District #911.

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