Both the Centralia and Chehalis School Districts are welcoming new superintendents to the district during a time of uncertainty around COVID-19 and the school’s reopening plans, but the incoming superintendents say they are up for the challenge.
Current Mossyrock superintendent, Dr. Lisa Grant, was hired by the Centralia School District in late January and will resume the role of superintendent on July 1. The Chehalis School District offered Dr. Christine Moloney the superintendent position in February and she will officially assume the role on July 1 as well.
“I am actually really fortunate because I have been in the position of superintendent elect since May 1 so I’ve been able to walk side by side with Ed Rothlin, the current superintendent,” said Moloney. “That has been amazing and it has afforded me the opportunity to get to know the administrators and some of the staff here in Chehalis before stepping into the role.”
Moloney said that she is looking forward to building upon the relationships she has already begun to establish at the Chehalis School District
She said she has had the opportunity to meet with district staff, teachers, union representatives, community members, and city officials.
“As we move into planning for the reopening of schools, I have those relationships and those connections to draw people in to help us plan for the reopening. I feel that we have an incredible opportunity to build something together for our kids, parents, and community as the reopening piece,” said Moloney.
She emphasized the importance she places on building relationships and working together because she feels having many people working on the same problem creates more powerful results.
In mid-June, Chris Reykdal, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, released a reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year that outlines expectations for Washington schools including the wearing of masks by students and teachers, canceled field trips, health screenings before entering the school and encouraged social distancing whenever possible.
Moloney said that implementing these new rules is going to be a challenge but is going into the situation with an optimistic and flexible mindset.
“It’s challenging but we just have to really care for the people we are working with and for — and I know we are going to put students first. Everybody that I’ve met here puts students first and it warms my heart,” she said.
Moloney said she wants families to know that providing a safe and comfortable learning environment for kids is her top priority. She said the district has a reopening committee that has representation from the community including parents, mental health professionals, and district administrators.
“We’re going to take every care and precaution possible for our kids and our staff’s safety and then communicate that out to parents so that they can make an informed decision for themselves and for their kids,” she said.
Centralia’s Interim Superintendent Kristy Vetter has said during multiple school board meetings that she has been keeping Dr. Lisa Grant up to speed on all of the goings-on in the Centralia School District so that she can enter the role with a pre-established background on the challenges facing the district.
In addition to the OSPI 2020-21 reopening regulations that the district must plan for, the Centralia School District is also facing a nearly $12 million budget deficit which was partially created by the failure of the levy earlier this year.
Regarding implementing the new reopening guidelines, Grant said that she has been working with both her current district, Mossyrock, and the Centralia School District in order to find ways to implement the new rules to keep students and staff safe while keeping the social and emotional impacts on students in mind.
“Schools are going to look different when students return so how do we plan for that? We haven’t got this far in the details but maybe we’ll send pictures or hold tours of the classrooms before school starts. We know we are going to have to address that,” said Grant.
She said that she has started meeting with people within the Centralia School District and is excited to assume the role as superintendent on July 1.
“I am excited to get started, very honestly, I mean it’s always hard to leave somewhere where you’ve developed relationships but I am really looking forward to getting started … great staff, great board, great community,” said Grant.
Grant encouraged families, parents, and community members to join the district in working together to create improvements and the district is working on putting together some sort of feedback system for the public to share their concerns.
“We are going to do everything possible to help create the best possible learning environment and then financially — everyone is actively working on plans so that we can create financial health in our district so we can get the resources we need to support kids,” said Grant.