It is so wonderful to have our students and staff back from spring break and with such enthusiasm! 

Recently, I had the opportunity to review data collected as a result of President Biden’s executive order. The data provided the first nationally representative picture of schools offering remote learning, in-person learning, or a hybrid of the two. Only 38% of grade four students and 28% of grade eight students in the nation are attending school in person (ASBO). In the coming months and years, as we learn more about exacerbated inequities, learning shortfalls, and the mental strain the last year has had on children and families, and what we have accomplished together in NBAPS will only become more apparent. 

For us, ensuring safe learning environments has been a collective effort between families, students, and staff. We have worked together to keep communication lines open, and have practiced mitigation efforts to provide safe learning environments.

For many of our students, the bus ride starts and ends their school experience each day. I have prioritized riding along on bus routes to verify we are following safety protocols of assigning seats, taking daily attendance, and physically distancing students by running buses at 50% capacity. 

 I have had the opportunity to meet the amazing people who serve as bus drivers for our school district.  I observed one of our bus drivers greeting each student by name. In his greeting he was taking attendance, which students barely noticed. What students heard was, “It is so great to see you today!” And when a student was missing, he asks about them, showing how much he cared about each rider.  He often responded with, “We will miss them today.” All the students knew the protocols, and it was clear they didn’t want to let him down. 

 Another bus driver shared the protocols for ventilation on the bus that is key to our mitigation efforts. Her clear expectations and warm demeanor made the ride to school safe and enjoyable for all. 

 Each and every staff member in our school district plays such a significant role in the lives of our students. Highlighting the work of our bus drivers brings me great joy! The next time you see an NBAPS bus, I hope a smile comes across your face as you consider the wonderful people that serve as our bus drivers and help to keep our students safe! 

 We are on track for a great spring. Go Vikings!

SARA PAUL is superintendent of North Branch Area Public Schools. She can be reached at 651-674-1000 or spaul@isd138.org.

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