The word “crisis” can have several meanings. I propose two: First, a crisis is an adverse situation that could not have been reasonably anticipated. Second, it could refer to an adverse situation that could have been anticipated but was not. Neither is our current circumstance an unprecedented event. I led a Montessori school in Beijing at the height of the SARS epidemic, which is very much like what we are currently experiencing. Historians love to quote the Spanish philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It boosts our sense of relevance.
I do not mean that the situation is not serious. We are taking it very seriously. But stripping COVID-19 of the inflammatory language makes it easier to address it solely with reason instead of emotion.
At MSC, neither definition applies. We saw COVID-19 approach. Our school nurse began researching the characteristics of this particular threat several weeks ago. She drafted a plan to make the school as safe as possible as long as it was prudent to remain open and we sent it parents a week ago. We knew, before the governor closed the schools, that we would have 3 weeks during Spring Break to formalize our plan—either in school or virtually—beyond 5 April in the event we open—or not.
Three outcomes are possible. First, the threat could pass and we resume life as usual. Second, if the threat remains high for longer than 3 weeks, the school closure period could be extended. Third (actually an extension of the second), the state could decide to close schools for the remainder of the year.
Thankfully, we are not in a position to make these decisions. And we cannot predict the details springing from decisions about each of the three scenarios (state testing? Mandatory 180 days?, etc.). But we can and must plan at the school and classroom levels how we will react in any of the likely scenarios. The faculty leadership met this morning to discuss two questions: First, how will we continue the school year if it is not safe for students, faculty, and parents to come to campus? Second, what additional measures might be in order if school can resume safely on 6 April. We anticipate having a plan to share with parents by 30 March, if not sooner.
We are in constant touch with the Charter Institute, the staff of which is working diligently to keep its schools informed and to ask us the necessary questions to spur our thinking about alternative courses of action. While the faculty and staff are dispersed to our homes, we check our emails and voice messages constantly and remain responsive to your questions and concerns.