Photo courtesy of Mike Wetherbee

Social Distance Diaries

A superintendent and a reporter

We wanted to create a feature in the paper called ‘The Social Distance Diaries.’ This is not a unique idea, but we loved it. We reached out for people who would be interested in documenting a day of their life in the ‘new normal,’ creating a time capsule of sorts. This week, we have Mr. Michael Wetherbee, Superintendent of Sheridan Schools, and Hannah Kearse, Madisonian reporter.

A day in the life of a Superintendent with a closed school, by Michael Wetherbee

It’s Tuesday morning around 5:30 a.m. and we have been on school closure for three weeks. Tuesday doesn’t mean the same thing now as it did then. This is our exchange day, so we have to get packets in boxes, get them on buses and to kids so they can get their stuff back to school.  

The first thing on my mind today is, can I make it to the shower? Step one is good. Step two is good. Step three and, yep I am going to make it. This is my ritual every day. Three steps to check things out. After breakfast I get the keys, let the cats out or in and get to the car. On the drive my thoughts are about making sure packets are appropriately put into boxes.  

I get to school. The awesome part of being me is that I have an amazing administrative assistant who usually arrives just prior to me and makes coffee. Today is no different. It is there and hot, so I pour a cup and wipe down surfaces in my office, even though the custodian did it last night and Lois before I arrived. That’s done and it’s off to the gym to load packets in totes for the bus.  

Now I know how Santa feels. 

Lois comes and helps and we get that done by eight, and the boxes are ready for travel. Some of the items teachers think will fit in a manila envelope are amazing, and it’s obvious the shop teacher didn’t understand what a manila envelope is because he has drafting boards that are 18x24 and drafting tools to go to his students.

Just the same, we are a patient group and get all of the things loaded. Dave, my lead bus driver, and I are on one of the longer routes. I am glad he knows where to go because I sure don’t. It is these times when I appreciate what our bus drivers and transportation directors know and do on a daily basis. Two hours later Dave and I are done.  

Summing up this day, we have been successful as 90% of the folks who needed to get stuff back are doing so. Today was a different delivery system than we practiced the two weeks previously so we were interested to see if it would go smoothly. I check the other 50 emails prior to leaving at 5:00 pm or so. If you ask me, email is the scourge of the earth and we might be better off without it. I wipe my office down and embark on the trip home.  

I have an 80-year-old mother who lives across the street from Sheridan School and when this thing started, I quit going to her house and began checking on her each day by phone. She’s fine, but isolated due to this event we find ourselves in. I encourage anyone reading this to call their elderly friends and take time to talk to them and see how they are doing.  

Getting home, I wade through the dogs, who are some of my best friends in the world, by greeting each one of them. I ask the family how the day was and check to see what’s for dinner, and then because I am mentally drained, some brainless TV for the evening. While watching brainless TV I am also watching my email and answering any questions from staff or students. As each of my staff check in, I leave them a positive comment for the day, and at about 10:00 p.m. I roll off to bed for the evening to start the process over again tomorrow. The saving grace is that it is not a packet delivery day.

If I can pick three words to explain how I feel as the day winds down it would be, I AM TIRED. Yep, that’s how it goes, and I will wake up tomorrow refreshed and ready to go.  I happen to work because I want to, not because I have to. I find my work rewarding and frustrating at the same time. These times for me are frustrating as I signed up to work with kids and their families, and this is not providing that opportunity. 

Another word in this whole thing is adjustment. This process has been an opportunity to adjust for kids,parents and teachers along with every other human in the United States. We are going to stumble our way through this mess and make some collective order of it.  We will push through to the other end and come out more prepared if this type of event should happen again.

I would like to take the opportunity to make a special thanks to a few people who have kept our school in the game. Thanks a million Lois, Rod, Emily and Becky. One thing I can truly say is that I work with some AMAZING people who care deeply for children and their success! Thanks to teaching staff and custodial staff for continuing on.

A reporter's Sunday, by Hannah Kearse

What time did you get up? 9 a.m.
What was your first thought? What’s for breakfast?

What was the first thing you did? I fed the pup and read some news while my boyfriend made eggs benedict.

How did breakfast go? I poured an Emergen-C packet in glasses of water. My boyfriend fed us salmon eggs benedicts with hash browns and roasted vegetables. It was amazing. The sun was out and an adventure was planned. I felt rested.

Describe your hours between breakfast and lunch. I worked for almost two hours after breakfast. Then we packed up our fly rods and headed to the Ruby River.

Pick three words that explain how you are feeling. Energized. Happy. Content.

Did lunch happen? I grazed my way through a large portion of a potato chip bag. Upon having to reach shockingly too far into the bag of chips, the realization of how out of control my potato chip addiction has gotten struck me. I quickly tossed the bag and grabbed an orange. In my head, an orange canceled out eating nearly an entire bag of chips. With each slice, I convinced myself for the time being that I was the pinnacle of healthy-food eating.

What was the afternoon like? David and I hopped fishing holes and low hanging banks in a narrow stretch of the
Ruby River. It was a good afternoon—David caught some fish, his 8-year-old son didn’t lose his pocket frisbee in the river, the puppy found a bone, Ihadaflashandabite.Wesaw a moose, lots of sandhill cranes and at no point, a pair fishing in the distance. It was partly sunny, and the wind was not constant. It took the normal half-hour and three bends later to convince David that it was time to go around 7 p.m.

What is your evening routine? We got take-out from the Sportsman in Ennis. My Sunday evening routine is eat and relax. I like cooking
but David likes it more and is better at it. Most nights he is cooking something delicious for dinner. Some nights it is all about taking it easy. I am not a picky-eater other than being anti-factory farming, which means I only eat meat and dairy if I’m certain the animal has been treated humanely. Ice cream and pizza have been known to cause me to stray from my own philosophy. I dragged myself to bed at 11 p.m. after watching a tense battle between good and evil in the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. IT WAS INTENSE and stressed me out a little bit. I had to go to bed.

Pick three words that explain how you are feeling. Tired. Slightly stressed.

What are three things you are grateful for? Montana’s wildlife. Having a job that I can still do in the morning. Oranges.

Anything different tomorrow? My work-play ratio will be completely flipped.

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65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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