New School Year Sends Lakota ‘Back to the Future’

New School Year Sends Lakota ‘Back to the Future’
Posted on 09/01/2021
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Back to the Future WE are Better Together video promo shotCelebrating the fact that “WE are Better Together,” the start of the 2021-2022 year sent Lakota students and staff “back to the future.” Lakota staff kicked off the year at their all-staff opening day celebration, where they enjoyed this lighthearted parody of “Back to the Future”, while families enjoyed a return to in-person open houses before a staggered start to the new school year.  


“We are gradually getting back to normal and back to a place where collaboration is at the center of everything we do,” said Lakota Superintendent Matthew Miller. “Collaboration has always been our greatest strength and the past year made that difficult to continue - in the traditional sense at least.” 


“We discovered new ways of doing things and will carry forward many of those lessons learned,” he continued. “I am very hopeful that the year ahead will be filled with togetherness and a greater sense of normalcy for our students and staff, while still doing everything we can to keep students in school learning.” 


The staggered start is a prime example of Lakota’s continuation of strategies that proved effective last year. Students in grades 1-12 returned over the course of two days, Aug. 18 and 19, giving both students and staff the opportunity to build stronger relationships in classes half the size of their normal day-to-day classes. Lakota’s youngest learners started their year over the course of three days - and for the first time were placed in a class after these phase-in days, which were used to assess all students and group them accordingly to maximize personalized instruction.


“There’s no greater feeling than walking into our buildings on the first day of school, or any day for that matter, to see students and staff talking and getting to know one another,” said Keith Koehne, Lakota’s Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction. “Once again, this was the scene in all the buildings I visited. Relationship building continues to be a top priority and one of the best ways to lay the foundation for more personalized instruction.” 


Also returning this year was Lakota’s VLO, which welcomed more than 350 students in grades K-12. Teachers continued building on the fully-online learning modules developed by Lakota staff. Now operating as its own Lakota school, VLO offers students access to the same supports as in-person learners, including counseling services and community building opportunities, for example.


“Last year taught us a lot about what our students want and need in a fully-online virtual learning environment,” said Krista Heidenreich. “We are excited to continue offering this option to students who aren’t ready to return to in-person learning or thrive in a virtual learning model.” 


Lakota students and staff did return to school with the requirement to wear face masks while indoors. The requirement is in direct response to the stringent quarantine requirements announced by the Butler County General Health District.


“While this might seem like a step backward in some way, our students learn best when they are in school,” Miller said. “As a public school district, we must follow the health department’s current quarantine protocols for classroom settings, which clearly favor mask wearing as a way to avoid quarantine when a student or staff member turns up positive with COVID-19.” 


Watch this video to better understand how masks help keep our students in school in spite of the health department’s quarantine requirements.


Lakota hosted its annual back-to-school photo contest on social media. Staff and families shared hundreds of photos from their first day using #WEareLakota and #WEareBetterTogether. For a sampling of the shared photos, check out part one and part two of Lakota’s first day photo albums on Facebook.