Horatio schools are starting off the new school year with plenty of changes, including a new superintendent, Zane Vanderpool, who joined the district on July 1 and is entering his 24th year in education, having spent the last 13 as the principal of an elementary school in Gravette. Ark.
Vanderpool said that he had been seeking a superintendent position for some time now and that when he saw the vision and mission statement of the Horatio School District on their website, it was compatible with his personal beliefs.
“It seemed like a great fit for me and the town has been very welcoming,” he said.
As a longtime educator and administrator, Vanderpool said that this year’s challenges are unlike anything he’s seen in education before and something he hopes he’d never have to see again.
“Our main goal is to start on the 24th and get the kids into their routines,” he said. “It is our belief in Horatio that the best instruction comes from face-to face instruction and a teacher is the best resource for instruction.”
Vanderpool said that they are prepared to and will offer remote virtual learning but that the plan is to provide five-day-a-week classroom instruction to students.
“We would encourage all students to come to class if possible,” he said.
With attendance as a goal, he said that the district is prepared to offer “blended learning” and that the district already has a head start in that they have been providing students with iPads for over a year now. According to the district’s website, as part of the Arkansas Ready for Learning initiative, Horatio Schools will implement two blended learning options for students for the 2020-21 school year, on-site and virtual.
“‘Blended Learning’ allows for students to receive direct instruction (whether in person or through recorded lessons) in combination with digital content and lessons,” the website states. “… Blended learning will become part of our “new normal” on campus as teams work to greatly increase and improve our digital content on Google Classroom, including resources and recordings of lessons.”
Virtual Learning, according to the website, is online instruction provided remotely from the school including: lesson recordings, Zoom sessions, Google Classroom, SeeSaw, and other digital content providers. Virtual learners will occasionally be required to report to campus to complete diagnostic or state-mandated assessments.
“We’ve been Schools of Innovation at both of our campuses,” Vanderpool said, noting his belief that students will adapt to the “new normal.”
According to the website, the district will follow all guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Education and Arkansas Department of Health and they will update any plans as guidance continues to change, “sometimes daily, and as new developments arise.”
Vanderpool said that district facilities are being prepared for disinfecting and sanitizing and that personal protection equipment for students, faculty and staff will be delivered prior to the schools being opened. Teachers have been re-arranging classrooms to promote social distancing according to guidelines set forth by the state department of health. According to the website, while students will change classes, those 10 and up will wear masks in the hallways, removing them when seated in class. The masks will be provided by the district and if parents of children under 10 with for them to wear masks, the district will oblige.
Vanderpool said that the district is “very optimistic” with the current curriculum in place, particularly mathematics, and the use of the Lincoln Learning Solutions, the computer platform they use to deliver lessons to students. He is also upbeat about district’s athletic programs, particularly the arrival of new head football coach, Lantz Castelman, and what he’s inspired among students in the short time since he was hired.
“Lantz brings an increased energy and a level of excitement the kids are talking about,” he said, noting that to his knowledge, team members have stayed healthy thus far.”
Under leadership of Horatio’s new Athletic Director Stephen Sprick, the high school is also going to field a golf team this year, coached by Michah Cassady.
With all the changes planned for Horatio schools this year, and with all the unknowns that might occur due to the covid-19 pandemic, district officials hope to make the school year as conventional as possible, hoping to minimize the impact on students as best they can.
Vanderpool concludes, “We have several leadership changes this year, at both the district level and at each school campus. We look forward to learn and grow together as we increase student achievement opportunities, remain competitive, and practice sound stewardship of our resources.”