FRUITLAND — While the educational landscape may look grizzly to some as COVID-19 continues to stick around, the administrative staff at Fruitland High School have shown their grit in preparing the campus for the Grizzlies’ return according to Principal Marci Haro. 

The newspaper sat down with Haro for a question and answer session on Aug. 26 to learn more about what she and other administrators in the District have done to be ready for day one of the 2020-21 school year. The school year began for students on Aug. 27.

Following is a selection of Haro’s answers, edits noted using ellipses. 

IE: What are your thoughts on the Fruitland School District’s operation plan as currently implemented?

Haro: I think that there has been so much thought and care and concern for children to implement this plan. Our board has been amazing, our new superintendent is fantastic and everybody has worked  tirelessly to come up with a plan that is best for all kids.

IE: What are your remaining concerns regarding reopening campuses to students?

Haro: I don’t have concerns so much as it’s a new way of doing school, and it’s gonna take teachers a little bit to get used to it as well as students and families. Everybody is working really hard. 

We’ve not had summer because we’ve been working, trying to make sure that we have every moving part thought about and put in place so kids have as much of a seamless transition into this type of learning where it’s a blended model. 

IE: It sounds like you and your staff have sacrificed a lot to make this happen.

Haro: I think I’ve had about two hours of summer. It’s been non-stop, we haven’t had a summer this year. Mark [VanWeerdhuizen, achievement specialist] has been working tirelessly on weekends, my counselor Azra [Muranovic] has been coming in on the weekends as well. I’ve been working until 8:00, 9:00 at night trying to get things done. I try to take one day a week mostly off, but we have been working six, seven days a week all summer to make sure kids have schedules and to make sure that teachers have the supplies they need and plans are in place for anything we can think of. We have it very well thought out. Our staff is amazing.

IE: Speaking of staff, what are your teachers saying about coming back while COVID-19 remains a threat?

Haro: We have a lot of [personal protective equipment] for staff, and we have equipment to wipe down desks in between each class. We have an amazing custodial staff that is working extremely hard and keeping our building clean. We’re cleaning the bathrooms twice a day, desks and every surface are getting wiped down every single day, everybody is just working extremely hard  to make it a clean environment for kids, which is great because with this many people in one small space it needs to be clean. If we didn’t have COVID, we would have flu and cold season. Things happen when you get with this many people in an area.

IE: How does the COVID-19 situation affect after-school programs?

Haro: We are following the District protocol and right now our athletics are in full-swing, but we are keeping a social distance. They’re wiping down every single piece of equipment after they use it. If they’re not six feet apart, they’re wearing masks. We have the same protocols in place for athletics that we do for school. We are, again, working tirelessly to wipe down gym equipment, kids are cleaning up in between each use as well. We are, again, just working really hard to make sure that we have our after school activities, our clubs and our athletics because all of that is extremely important for the high school experience. We want students to be well-educated and well-rounded when they leave Fruitland.

IE: What parent/student feedback have you received about coming back to school this far?

Haro: I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from our community, because our community’s amazing. They are so supportive, they cares about our schools, they are the best community I’ve ever worked in. I just can’t say enough positive things about our community and how wonderful they are and they are supportive to get kids back in class. I’ve had a lot of amazing parental feedback and positive support that thank [us] for everything we’re doing and working so hard. They like the idea of every student having a chromebook … that way they’ll have one all year long and they don’t have to share that equipment. When they’re home, they’re logging in to each class every single period, so they’re not missing out on instruction because we have to implement our full curriculum.

IE: How have you worked with leaders at other Fruitland school sites to prepare for reopening?

Haro:  We work together with everyone all the time, whether it’s COVID or not. We have an amazing team from the middle school, the elementary and  our superintendent. We all work really well together; I volunteered for us to order the supplies for COVID cleaning. We ordered sanitizing bottles and all sorts of equipment, PPE, masks for staff and then I’m disbursing it to other buildings. The middle school is always there if I have any kind of questions, with last year being my first year, the nuances of the District. Shane [Burrup, Fruitland Middle School principal] is always there to answer, and Jared [Olsen, Fruitland Elementary School principal] is always there to help out., but we work really well together as a team. When something comes up that we’re not quite sure about, we meet and we work through the issue and we talk and share ideas. I feel between my high school team and out District team, there isn’t any problem that we can’t solve …

IE: Looking on the bright side of the pandemic, what is everyone looking forward to this school year?

Haro: Friday night football this week! We’re doing senior night ahead of time, so [tonight’s] our senior night for football. We’re just looking forward to getting back to school, seeing the kids . We had our freshman orientation [Wednesday] morning, and it was so great to have a pep assembly to teach the freshmen the cheers. They went to each class, so they could go through their schedule and see what school’s about …

IE: What is your message to students as school resumes?

Haro: Try hard and work hard. It’s going to be a little different this year. It’s something that we’ve never had to do in our history, in our lifetime. But it will be something that they will never forget and they will use these tools for the rest of their life, to be adaptable and smart people and overcome challenges that come their way. I want them to do their best in school and take advantage of the high school experience; Go out for clubs, go out for athletics, try different things that they wouldn’t normally try … Join ASB, join cheer, maybe you don’t think you’re a runner but try track. Try something new. Talk to somebody you’ve never talked to before in the hall. Just enjoy the full experience of high school, with being safe and smart, and come to school ready to learn.

IE: And what do you say to parents as school starts, especially those who worry about their kids being exposed to COVID-19?

Haro: I can say that we have worked really hard and we care about every single kid here. We care about their safety, and we want everyone to have a successful academic year at Fruitland.

According to an Aug. 27 email from Haro, enrollment at Fruitland High is 530 students this year. She also acknowledged that the blended model comes with a learning curve for students during their home days.

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