Valley High School Celebrates “Days in School” with Daily Sign Routine

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Valley’s “Days in School” sign on Sept. 16.

Valley High School students, staff, and families are getting used to new routines in the face of COVID-19—wearing face coverings, daily wellness check-ins, logging in to classes, and using lots of hand sanitizer. What makes all the routines worth it is the opportunity to be back in school and learning together, whether that is on-site or online. 

To help keep students motivated and engaged during this unorthodox year, Valley Principal David Maxwell created one more ritual. Every day around 10 a.m., he updates a handmade sign marking Valley’s days in school.

“The idea is if we have a visual for the students to let them see that we’re still in school and each day we’re in school is one more day under the belt and to keep a running total, hoping that is a motivator,” Maxwell said. “(I’m) hoping that it makes them want to come to school to see how high the number can get because that’s the whole point.” 

He follows a strict routine to update the sign each day. Step one is grabbing paper from his own printer and writing out the number. He uses the same marker every day and writes over each number five times. Like a lot of rituals, the steps developed naturally, but now they’re set in stone. 

“The five times just happened,” Maxwell said, but now, “I don’t want to jinx it.”

Next, he walks to the days in school sign, which is outside the Valley office. His tradition of turning around to show the number to attendance secretary Kim Windergerst every day has earned him a new nickname—Vance, based on longtime “Wheel of Fortune” host Vanna White. 

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Valley attendance secretary Kim Windergerst celebrates another day in school.

“Vanna didn’t seem quite right,” Windergerst laughed. She celebrates the growing number of days in school with a little dance each morning. 

After the dance, Maxwell turns and swaps out the number. Adding the days started as a motivator for students, but it’s also something that is keeping spirits high for staff and for Maxwell himself.

“I want to see just how high (the number) can get,” Maxwell said. “I want to stay in school as long as possible.” 

Read more about the strategies Valley and other WDMCS schools are using to mitigate COVID-19 and stay in school.