The only way the degree of difficulty could have been tougher for Grant Swallows in his first year as Director of Schools is if the Central Office was on fire when he arrived.
It’s been a school year like none other – including facemasks, temperature checks at the door, social distancing, and virtual learning.
For a while, it looked like there might not even be in-person learning this year and the prospect of having high school football season seemed bleak. But students returned to physical buildings and the school year started with a crawl before being upgraded to a limp.
Gradually, activity began to return to a more normal setting, although we managed to make it an entire year without school on Friday. There’s going to be some culture shock when we return to a five-day school week, whenever that may be.
For his part, I think Swallows did an outstanding job of winning in a school year that looked like it might be a no-win situation. I had a chance to chat with him Wednesday and get his reflections on Year 1 as Director of Schools.
“I have mixed feelings,” said Swallows. “One side of me doesn’t believe all this happened during my first year and the other side is really proud of what we could accomplish with some really terrible circumstances. We were able to educate 6,000 students in the face of a global pandemic and I think we did a good job of it. We did this while taking measures to look out for the health of our students and look out for the health of our staff. I think we can all sit back and be proud of what we accomplished and I give a shout-out to everyone who was involved.”
I asked Grant if the decision to open up WCHS graduation so everyone could attend has been a popular one. Like so many decisions he’s made this year, he said reaction has been split.
“There are really a lot of people on both sides of the issue,” said Swallows.
So is he going to shake hands with graduates as they cross the stage?
“If a kid reaches out to shake my hand, I am certainly going to shake it,” said Swallows. “Whatever they are comfortable with, I’m comfortable with. We can shake hands, fist bump, or do nothing at all.”
In a year floating with tough decisions, Swallows has one more left. With rain in the forecast for much of the day Friday, there’s the decision to hold graduation Friday night, or postpone the ceremony. He says he’s not so much concerned about the day it’s held, as he is about graduation itself.
“We're going to focus on making it the best ceremony for our seniors that we possibly can because they deserve that,” he said.
I give Grant Swallows and our entire school system high marks for navigating what’s been a school year filled with landmines. Hopefully next year will be better, but if not, we’ve shown we can rise to the challenge.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.