Coming off of spring break, educators and students prepared for a productive return to the school year. However, COVID-19 hit…and it hit hard.
With the closure of the Yazoo County School District, a team of administrators and educators came to the table with no idea of what to expect. None had ever experienced a pandemic before, and a number of tools and resources were brought to frontline to ensure county students would finish their school year with success.
Uncertainty loomed over that team. But based on the results, you couldn’t tell.
“This is something we have never done before,” said Blaine Overby, principal of Yazoo County High School. “However, the teachers of Yazoo County High School made it impossible to know that.”
Distance learning became the new norm. And through Zoom meetings, Facebook live sessions and other digital avenues…education prevailed among the local district.
“Distance learning was a challenge at Yazoo County Middle School,” said Principal Melanie Roberts. “But our teachers really stepped up to the plate.”
Overby admits that her staff adjusted to distance learning with no training or preparations. But it all seemed to fall into place. Students were able to access their assignments online or were able to physically pick up their papers.
“They handled it like champs,” Overby said. “Having both options took a lot of time and effort from our teachers, but I never heard one complaint.”
Overby said the general response from her teachers was “what do we need to do.”
“Whatever was asked of them, they did that and more for our students,” she said. “I could not be more thankful for the opportunity to work for them.”
There were a few teachers who stood out for Overby, including Richard Easterling and Becky Petermann. From putting together packets to delivering assignments to assisting both students and parents, both instructors took extra measures.
“They both were here almost every single day during the closure to make sure the job got done, despite the option to work from home,” Overby said. “Our students did a wonderful job transitioning to distance learning.”
Roberts said her teachers, especially Tracie Saxton and Callie Tarbox, went above and beyond.
“These two energetic teachers came in every week to help with preparing and distributing packets and then sorting packets by grade levels and subject areas so that grading could begin,” Roberts said.
Roberts said also joining with those efforts were Linda Self, Chad Graeber, Melanie Hardy, Veronica Frizell and Pam Pickens.
“At YCMS, we were also blessed to have an outstanding SPED department, who continued to push forward to be sure services were delivered to their students,” Roberts said. “Asha Byars, Whitney Thomas, Elizabeth Suber and Cheryl Buckhannan worked both on and off site to get the job done.”
Roberts said many teachers also helped with delivering meals to the students. Those educators include Callie Tarbox, Grant Andrews, Tracie Saxton, Linda Self, Sharlandria Winston, Dorothy Young, Chad Graeber and Jim Harrison.
Overby also said many of teachers did much the same. Teachers held community parades to connect with their students, evening hand-delivering gifts to each graduating senior.
Graduation was another challenge that the high school team approached with extra planning and ended with success.
“I cannot even begin to tell you the amount of planning that went into that day,” Overby said. “It truly took a village to pull it off. It would not have been possible without everyone in the district who helped on graduation day. It was most certainly a wonderful experience, and one no one will ever forget.”
Overby said her team will ensure that increasing student achievement and maintaining a safe and secure environment are the ultimate goals as the school adjusts to the new norm.
“Nothing can replace the connection between an educator and their students,” she said. “Knowing this, we will utilize every opportunity possible to ensure we are continuing to foster these connections and relationships. Yazoo County High School students and staff are a strong and resilient bunch. There is no doubt that we will not only endure these tough times, but we will also come out on the other side better and stronger because of them.”