Principal Don Epps and his staff ensured that Royster Middle School’s first virtual question-and-answer meeting of the year was as close to a casual environment as possible.

Last Tuesday, Epps, Assistant Principal Landon Diveley, Guidance Counselors Jennifer Inbody and Valerie Schmitz, and five RMS teachers hosted the question-and-answer session much like a coffee shop environment. The session was set up with some entertainment before questions were read aloud then answered for the 20 or so families that tuned in.

Epps said the school’s first question-and-answer Zoom meeting went exceptionally well.

“We had a great meeting,” Epps said. “Basically we are making a highway as we go there. Or a better analogy is we’re kind of building a plane in the air. We want to make it that we’re offering every opportunity to our parents to ask questions and be in a relaxed setting. It was very relaxed. We had a good turnout.”

Primary concerns of parents were trying to find more opportunities for students to learn. And other parents were overwhelmed with lessons and homework that were already out there. Parents also questioned the process of students promoted to the next grade level.

Epps said he sees students working too many hours, while others aren’t working enough hours.

“We’re going to try and meet everyone’s needs and I don’t want to offer any pressure and undue stress from online learning or social-distance learning,” Epps continued. “We just want to make sure we are supportive and provide opportunities for our kids.”

Administrators and teachers were also facilitating the importance of communicating students’ assignments. Step by step, Epps went over how parents can access the middle school’s website to see the weekly learning opportunities. 

Epps pointed out how to access Google Classroom, as well as PowerSchool, which is an online grading system.

“But grades are for feedback right now...,” Epps said. “For us, grades are a way for feedback, and that, it’s not like it’s being tracked for the long-term. It’s just that we want to be able to get that communication back to parents. And that’s what they wanted more than anything, making sure they stay on track.”

Epps said he doesn’t set up the Zoom meetings to where teachers and administrators are dominating the conversation. The second-year principal implores parents to come with questions and topics of discussion during these vital sessions.

For today’s meeting – the middle school’s second meeting will be hosted today 5:30 - 6:15 pm by Epps and Chanute High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Zack Murry – parents can expect funny clips, inspirational stories and an abundance of positivity and incentives for online learning.

Still, the last day of school is May 22 for Royster Middle, and Epps said communication for these last few weeks is paramount.

“The message to parents is ‘We support you, we care greatly about your child and your children, and please let us know any way we can help,’” Epps added. “There is no problem that we can’t solve if we work together. We just want to make sure number one, that your child is doing well emotionally, and have their needs taken care of. And two, we want to make sure that we have academic learning experiences and content so they can continue growing. We have a very loving school, and we just want to make sure that they are still a part of something special, even though they can’t be in the building every day.

“Something I always tell our parents, we call ourselves ‘Rocket Nation.’ The ‘Rocket Nation’ is not about a place. It’s about the people, that’s what we want to emphasize. Please do not hesitate with questions or concerns. We want to try to help any way we can and share those stories.”

Zoom links will be emailed to parents and are set up on the USD 413 website as well as the middle school’s Facebook page.


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