SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A local school is being recognized by the state superintendent of schools for having a “welcoming environment” as part of the Family Friendly School Initiative.
Thursday, leaders and staff from the School of Humanities at Juliette Gordon Low Elementary were honored with the Family Friendly recognition while acknowledging that engaging the community and serving parents during the age of COVID had provided many challenges in the last year.
“We are growing each and every day and learning how we can connect to our families,” said Principal Tahisa-Gresham Wright.
Gresham-Wright credited her staff for doing the hard work of community engagement, saying her new school had been formed from two smaller elementary schools back in 2017.
“Our administrative team went out into the community and talked to the neighbors,” she said. “We attended neighborhood association meetings where we got feedback from various members of the community to find out how we could support them and they could support us as a school.”
As community support and parents became accepting and engaged with school leaders, those leaders found a new challenge — COVID-19.
In the midst of trying to establish virtual learning, the school made a point of continuing efforts to serve and involve parents.
“We actually opened up a Zoom meeting where our community partners, our staff and all of our parents were able to virtually see our students walking into the building as we started hybrid learning,” said Gresham-Wright
As the school staff and principal led State Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods on a tour of the facility, he saw several classrooms with children but was told the teacher also had some students virtual learning at the same time.
Woods told reporters that the school “didn’t miss a beat in terms of serving both students and parents.”
“We have COVID, but our mission is still our mission,” he said. “And I think maintaining that focus is extremely important and extremely impressive.”
Woods said local leaders should be gratified because only five schools out of more than 2,000 in Georgia were receiving this kind of recognition this year.
“We all learned a lot of lessons this year, but one of the things I have found is our creativity came out, and our support for each other came out,” said Dr. Ann Levett, the superintendent for the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.
“We want to make this a great place for our students to learn and actually to grow,” said Gresham-Wright.
Woods said the school provided an example of how virtual meetings, for example, can serve parents who may find it hard to visit schools in person because of work schedules.
“We typically look at a lot of this being done face-to-face, but I think what I have seen, especially here at this school, is that looked at this as an opportunity of expanding ways to engage parents,” said Woods.
While Woods says schools statewide will be returning to five days a week in-person learning, the lessons learned from COVID can continue to serve parents.