I was told there would be better days ahead in 2021. I was – at least for the first two weeks – badly misled.
Sorry. That’s my glass-half-empty voice. How it invaded this post I don’t know. But it won’t happen again.
Switching to glass-half-full voice in three, two, one ...
There IS light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s not a train. It’s the availability of a COVID vaccine and the transition to normalcy – including the return of Seabury students to their classrooms starting in February.
Our tentative start dates are Feb. 1 for grades K-3 and Feb. 8 for grades 4-5. The return date for grades 6-8 remain undetermined. Those families who want their children to remain in distance learning will have that option.
While most families have told us they are ready – boy are they ready – for children to return to the classroom, picking a date was like trying to pitch a tent on a bed of sand.
“This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” said Head of School Sandi Wollum. “Every time we’ve been about to set a return date, the numbers and guidance changed.
Our calculus included the welfare of students and families, but also staff and faculty. “All along we’ve erred on the side of caution,” Sandi said.“Some of our staff and faculty belong to a vulnerable age group or live with vulnerable family members. The last thing I want to do is put them at any unnecessary risk.”
So what led us to announce a February return – especially since transmission rates are trending higher than they were when we opted to begin school in distance learning mode this fall?
First and foremost the return is supported by the latest guidelines from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, which give schools more leeway to return to the classroom.
“We decided from day one that we would get as much training and expertise as we could about returning safely and then follow the recommendations of the health department to the best of our ability,” Sandi said.
A driving force behind the revised guidelines is the information gleaned from those schools that have continued to provide classroom instruction throughout all or most of the pandemic.
“We now know that even if the transmission number is high in the community, the mitigation protocols we have in place -- masking, sanitizing, social distancing, cohort grouping, daily health checks and all the other things we’re doing -- work,” Sandi said.
Besides data from other schools, we have our own evidence. Our pre-kindergarteners have been in their classroom since the start of school and our K-3 students joined them for six weeks starting in October.
Our small class sizes and large classrooms also boost our confidence because they make social distancing easy. Each classroom also has its own entrance and bathroom. We don’t have any hallways or bathrooms where students can mingle.
“I wouldn’t even consider returning to the classroom if I wasn’t confident we are doing everything we can to create a safe environment and that our families are doing the same at home,” Sandi said.
You know what? I’m starting to think that glass is a lot more than half full!