The COVID-19 closed schools nationwide in the spring of 2020. One day schools were open. The next day they were closed indefinitely as state governors issues stay at home orders. Then schools scrambled to replace familiar face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning. Sports and extracurricular activities became distant memories. Plans for summer school and camps went out the window. Graduations, end of year traditions such as school plays and assemblies are virtual occasions in 2020. It's all so different, so scary, and so unsettling. Yet, you and I know that life must go on.
Dr. Reinhold Niehbur's Serenity Prayer comes to mind as a spiritual anchor for these troubled times:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
I cite this prayer because it expresses the attitude each of us must bring to bear on the situation which faces us in our daily lives. Our children's education is a critical concern. That's why we elected to send our kids to private school in the first place. However, this COVID-19 virus is controlling everything. And it will continue to do so indefinitely until we have vaccines to protect us.
This short video displays The Serenity Prayer.
With that in mind, here are five things you need to do when you are a parent with children in private school during this horrific pandemic.
Nothing is going to be the same. Gone are the days when you dropped your children off at school and went on about your business. You knew that they were properly supervised and taught by experienced professionals. That supervision and teaching will continue but will be delivered in different ways for the protection of the entire school community. Expect a lot of online and digital instruction. Take time to understand how that all works so that you can monitor your child's progress.
Everybody on your school's staff is running on nerves at this point. All of them, from the head of school to members of the maintenance staff, are stressed out. Send an email to your head of school. Thank her for all the hours she has spent working with her board of trustees devising new protocols so that the school can continue teaching. The head and her board are facing dozens of financial, legal, and pedagogical matters as they try to figure out how to proceed. They will appreciate your concern. Email or speak with your children's teachers. They need to know you care. Send over canned goods for the school staff. Many come from families where a significant wage-earner has lost his job. Your generosity will mean the world to them.
This video offers a thank you to teachers.
As I said before, COVID-19 is controlling our lives. It is going to determine how the school operates in the fall of 2020. Social distancing and wearing masks will be the new norm. Digital learning will be much more common. I understand that you sent your children to private school because of the individual attention, small classes, and highly-credentialled, experienced teachers. Well, all of those attributes will still be part of the package for which you are paying. However, the method of delivery will be different, although probably more effective as far as most young people are concerned. Can the school tell you how they plan to teach? Probably not in late spring or early summer, but hang in there. They WILL have a plan. And it will be a winner. Remember that private schools can adjust to situations quickly. They are agile by nature and consistently responsive to the needs of their students and families.
Teach your children to observe safe social distancing. Explain to them regularly, not just once, why social distancing is critical to their safety and the safety of others in the school community. Teach your children to wash their hands thoroughly and often. The school will implement these and other protocols to protect students and staff. They may take temperatures. They will probably require everybody to wear masks. Reinforce these protective practices with your children. Make or buy a couple of washable masks. When safety is a fun experience, not a chore, your children will adopt safe habits and practices without any resistance. Remind your children that keeping them safe from COVID-19 also helps to protect their beloved older relatives.
It's going to take a few weeks, perhaps months, for your school's new routine to become familiar. You can help by enriching your children's lessons with digital books and a host of educational and cultural experiences available online. Arts organizations worldwide have canceled their performances and seasons. Meanwhile, they have all gone online with free concerts. Take advantage of those events. Even sports have gone online. What about extracurricular activities? While group activities are out of the question, age-appropriate projects of every kind are doable. For example, building a computer, writing an app, learning how to make a shirt, or mastering a common application such as Microsoft Excel are all activities worth considering.
This video from CBS News shows the impact of COVID-19 on digital learning.
The 2020-2021 Academic Year
Most parents are concerned about what will happen in the 2020-2021 academic year. The situation is fluid. Your school will communicate with you regularly as plans gel over the early summer. Much depends on the COVID-19 situation in your local area. We all have a lot at stake. You want the best education you can provide for your child. The school intends to give that high standard of teaching in the safest way possible. One last suggestion: when you want to know what's going on at your school, speak to the designated contact person at the school. Also, the school's website will typically have answers to your frequently asked questions.
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