Reopening School during a Global Pandemic

Reopening School during a Global Pandemic
  • Education Policy
  • Give Each Child
Steve Wilkins, Head of School Blog


Every family with school aged children is in a tough spot this fall. How to get back to school is nothing but a large basket full of hard decisions. In this blog, I write about what we share as a community as we look forward to Carroll School’s reopening.

We all share the same goal.

Deliver the highest quality education possible to our students. I want nothing more than to do what I have dedicated my career to achieving: figuring out how to create the best learning environments and outcomes for children with language-based learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

We all share similar experiences.  

We all have been traumatized by the educational implications of this pandemic-- especially for children who need unique and effective school experiences. One of our opening professional development sessions is entitled “Trauma Aware Communities.” In that training, we have discussed and learned why it is important: to listen to each other, to harness empathy for one another, to question whether one's steadfast viewpoints are any better than anyone else’s opinions, and to accept that which we cannot change. This has become an essential skill as we navigate the many opinions and emotions sparked by the pandemic and our school reopening plan.

A lot of this is particularly challenging for Carroll parents who have at one time realized that “school doesn’t work for my kid” and then arrived at Carroll to realize that school can work for their child. Now we are hearing “remote just doesn’t work for my kid” and our expectation is that Carroll’s significantly improved remote model can work effectively for children.

I am so frustrated to end my 35 years as a head of an independent school in this pandemic environment. Current conditions make me so incredibly sad. I am devastated by our inability to be the best version of Carroll School. Yet, our faculty is working so hard to become even more expert at helping our students. The amount of professional development work they took on this summer is magnificent. So many of us have dedicated our careers to making this an incredibly effective school and likewise our community has come to expect extraordinary student outcomes. Can we deliver the same program in the age of Covid?

Of course not. But we can deliver an exceptional education nonetheless. These teachers and tutors won’t allow it to be anything less than outstanding.

Yet we-- parents, students, teachers, tutors, trustees, staff, administration-- all share a desire for the virus to leave us alone and let us get back to the work of educating these children in their academic, cognitive, social, and emotional development.

A school alone cannot make everything “all better.” Carroll will not pretend that the best course of action is to throw kids back into classes, paying only lip service to health and safety mitigations. Protecting the health of our community while they are at school is a massive, complex task. Carroll is taking that responsibility very seriously. That is why we are test-driving on-campus realities before committing to more. We are taking care of kids as best we can, given what we can control.

We all share hope that Carroll’s model for opening school will work, and that we will be able to increase the number of days of on-campus education early this fall.

Carroll is ready. We have taken a plethora of measures to be prepared. Our faculty wants to do what they have dedicated their careers to doing: helping children with LBLD.

I want to dispel three incorrect theories that:

(1) Our opening plan is based on a lack of preparedness to meet safety measures. Not True.

(2) We have a faculty unwilling to work on campus. Not True.

(3) The opening plan is only a way of letting you down softly to an announcement of a full remote program. Not True.

We all share an understanding that the safety of our students is the primary objective of any plan. It always is.

That is why our opening model moves early, slowly, and analytically.

  • We move early. By the time most schools have their first on-campus experience, Carroll students will have been on campus four times. On September 18th, I will update families on how this model is working.
     
  • We move slowly. Rather than jumping into full weeks of on-campus education, our plan allows us to be nimble and to adjust in-person conditions to improve our delivery.
     
  • We move analytically to enable us to respond to a plan that emerges and evolves as conditions become clearer. Please understand that we do not have “a one day a week for the fall” plan, as some have stated. It is a careful plan to expand on-campus education successfully.

This plan allows us to GEC (give each child what they most need) in the total sense of the term, including the health of all children and their teachers.

Together we will share the work and responsibility so that Carroll students get the education they most need.

That is why our model delivers direct instruction every day from highly trained teachers of children with LBLD. We have maintained since our first communication with parents back in May that our educational model will work to the benefit of our type of learners regardless of whether we are on-campus, remote, or somewhere in between.

We all share enthusiasm for the opening of school.

We cannot wait to see your kids. We all want to be together. We all want to deliver the kind of education that defines Carroll. Our cautious start is specifically designed to ensure that the total number of days your child will be on campus this fall will be as large as possible. I want to repeat that: Our cautious start is specifically designed to ensure that the total number of days your child will be on campus this fall will be as large as possible.

  • Give Each Child



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