We’re one week into the stay home order and we have no idea when it will end. We are worried about our families, our students, our colleagues, our friends… We know that the world will never be the same and yet we hope that there are some good things that come from this awful situation. We desperately miss this place called school and the regular routines that it provides us all. We long for the normalcy of the phone waking us up early, the traffic on the way there, the sleepy teenagers eager to talk with us …
To keep sane, we decided to start planning the return to school. We decided to keep updating this as the situation evolves, but it helped us get through another day of news stories to talk about what we needed to do to ensure that our school was ready, when the time came, to welcome students and staff back. We welcome ideas that you all have, and we promise to keep our thinking updated as we believe that the scientists and doctors were taught well by their teachers and that they will use their education to solve this crisis. What we can do, now, in addition to developing online experiences, is to plan for the return to school.
It probably goes without saying, but the building needs to be cleaned. We want staff, students, and families to know that we have taken every precaution to clean the place that we will re-inhabit.
Welcome those who come.
We plan to ensure that teachers say every student’s name every period. We plan to have a welcome ceremony, but not one that is too celebratory as there are people who have been lost. But we also recognize that people will need a chance to re-connect and re-establish bonds. We need to re-build the culture of the school and develop intentional plans to do so.
Recognize who is not here.
This is really hard to write, but some of the people who left school on the last day we were all together will not return when we re-open. There are a range of reasons, including seniors who graduated but did not get to say goodbye other than virtually (and we will be planning a ceremony for them when we are told it is safe to do so). There are also probably going to be staff who decide not to return out of fear or personal reasons. There will probably be people who are no longer with us, having succumbed to this disease. And there are students whose lives changed while we were away and they are not able to attend any more because they have moved away, are in jail, or worse. As painful as this is, we think it’s worth the time when we return to recognize who is not here with us anymore.
Address the trauma that we have all experienced.
We’re told it’s better to talk about it than keep it in, so we plan to do that. We plan to engage our professional counseling staff in individual and group sessions to help us all, students and staff alike, process this experience. It’s already been traumatic, and it’s only been a week. We’ve seen food shortages and panic. We’re told that the number of reported abuse cases have dropped by half in our city, and those professionals are worried that the eyes and the ears—teachers—are not around children and youth to notice and report. And we’re told that the suicide rate has already increased. Yes, we’re going to need to mobilize a lot of resources to start the healing process.
Commit to learn something every day.
We are educators and there is a reason we do what we do; we care deeply about learning. As we return, some of the learning will need to be social and emotional and some may need to be behavioral. We suspect that students will return with new habits and some of them may be problematic. We hope that our teachers understand that our students may need to re-learn some of their classroom behaviors. And we commit to ensuring that we all learn something every day: the teachers, the administrators, and the students. Learning is our core value and the future depends on all of us ensuring that students learn.
Again, we are early in this global crisis and only have one week of “stay home” behind us. There is still much to come, and we may need to revise our plans. But we are optimists who believe that schools will return and that educators will be part of the healing process that we will all so desperately need. Schools are a major foundation of our society and our communities need us. On that first day back, whenever it is (but hopefully soon), we want to be ready. We want to have thought through the re-entry plans that our students, faculty, and staff need to thrive. Again, we welcome your ideas.