The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly allowed us all to do things differently and adapt our lifestyles and habits, whether we wanted to or not. In the Cave Creek Unified District (CCUSD), we started adapting in mid-March when Governor Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman closed all Arizona public schools. Our teaching and learning department and our principals, along with lead teachers, worked tirelessly to make sure that after our spring break, our students transitioned seamlessly to virtual schools rather than our typical brick and mortar classrooms. To assist families with technology needs, CCUSD loaned out 1,044 Chromebooks and 15 hotspots so that students would have the tools to continue their studies at home. I could not be prouder of the quick but thorough work our staff produced to make all this happen, including our technology department that continues to man the help desk.

Closed schools also meant that our students who receive meal assistance would still need to have meals during the week. Our child nutrition department wrote for a state waiver to allow CCUSD to feed any child in the community under 18 years old by receiving meals distributed daily in front of Cactus Shadows High School. In addition, Subway owner, Jeff Weckstein, donated Subway sandwiches for the first three weeks of the closure. Harold’s Corral in Cave Creek is providing 70 family meals per week for those needing assistance, jumpstarted with a $2,000 donation from Carefree Kiwanis and private donations from the community, including out-of-state donors. In addition, some community members have generously donated their stimulus checks to support our food distribution.

Carefree Floors in Cave Creek donated carpet cleaning for the district buildings and Mission Grove Church donated ten $100 gift cards for staff needing support. An anonymous donor gave $10,000 to support repairs and purchase of Chromebooks that students use for their lessons. We are grateful for such strong support despite being a relatively small community.

Our schools know that our students are missing their classmates and teachers, and our staff are missing the smiles and hugs from our students. Some of our elementary schools have hosted “car parades” where our teachers stand in the parking lot six feet apart with their masks on and our families drive through with signs, balloons and banners on their vehicles. At Black Mountain Elementary School, their spring musical, “Annie,” was cancelled so they put together a virtual production so everyone could still enjoy the performance.

Our eighth graders and high school seniors have received signs for their front yards to congratulate them and both Sonoran Trails Middle School and Cactus Shadows High School have a display wall where promoting or graduating students can post pictures for a group collage. Our CCUSD social media has been highlighting individual CSHS seniors with a picture and what their plans are post-high school. Above all, we cannot change the unprecedented situation the pandemic has caused, but like all situations, it is how we choose to handle things that makes us resilient and strong.