August 7, 2020

Hello Friends!

Welcome to the end of another week in COVID world, where challenges abound and the bizarre never seems too far away. As I email, speak, zoom, and text with school leaders from around our region, I cannot help but hear the bugle sound from the races as it feels like schools are heading are to the starting gates of whatever track they are choosing. Content folks seem to be busy bees once again, too, as there is a lot out there right now for schools.

First, let’s take a brief dip into COVID world.

  • The most interesting thing from a research perspective seems to be about T-cells. As you likely know by now – but, like me, may have had not clue about this time last year – many common colds have a base in coronaviruses. Not this season’s flavor of virus, but coronaviruses nonetheless. If you have had such a cold in the past, you may have T-cells that will help you deflect some of the impact of COVID-19.
  • Things are definitely heating up with some private schools reopening and public schools starting online. Montgomery County in MD just tried to keep private schools online while public school are online, and the governor stepped in to overrule it just as the private school parents filed to sue the county health officials.
  • On the school front, the Howard School and the Schenck School have shared the linked resources with us. For those looking for great visuals for “if this, then this” kind of scenarios regarding exposures, symptoms, etc., these might help you create your own. I have to say, I am partial to the Schenck School video for students, too. Also on the school resource front, Augusta Prep shared its reopening plan, including the community commitment document they have put together here.
  • The lawyers have been getting in the mix this week. Littler put out two resources, one with a state by state review of statewide mask orders as well as a state by state review of statewide employee temperature and health screening ordersThis piece on legal issues as employees return to work, particularly as many schools have in-service days right now, may also be useful. Curious about whether the school might be liable if an employee contracts the virus from a co-worker? Here is some insight. Do keep an eye on your states, as some like VA have pretty stringent new workplace regulations.

  • Finally, on this one, if you have not joined the free Joffe site for schools yet, you should. They have resources like this one that compares screening apps, a  vendor supply list with school comments, and a free weekly webinar.  There are things you can pay for, but there is also a freebie membership that might be helpful.

As we get closer to opening, there is more attention being paid to whether students can really do follow the guidelines that schools are putting in place. Neuroscience does not seem to be with us on this one when it comes to teenage self-regulations. Regardless, there is a LOT of interest in the classroom, tools, and other intricacies in the actual delivery of education right now. A few highlights that might be helpful to share with your team:

  • I love this piece on using COVID as a jumping off point for learning.
  • Obviously, some of the concern is around losing community or the high touch of our schools. This piece on humanizing the classroom might be useful, this one on building connections with students even when starting online might be, too.
  • What does it feel like to teach in a socially distanced classroom? One experience, and a follow up piece with lots of great suggestions and tools for hybrid and distanced learning.
  • This visually cool NYT overview on what back to school might look like in the physical environment
  • For parents looking for resources to get started with either virtual or a hybrid structure, setting up a more functional home base for kids might help. Something else for the parents? How about all anxiety questions answered?
  • And, who doesn’t love a good app? Here are a few highly recommended ones for math, and another overview for those good for collaboration and other tools for students in person or online.
  • The book worm in me loves this idea for starting a virtual book club for students
  • And, I know many of you are creating outdoor classrooms. Need back up for why it’s a good idea from a general student wellness perspective? You got it.  
  • Looking for some ideas on addressing how you are using staff going into this fall? Got that too.
  • How do you get kids used to masks? Check this out.
  • Schools are clearly wrestling with extracurriculars, too. Is it safe to bring band back? What about sports? NCAA has put out updated guidance and insights, and notes that the earlier guidance was based on a theory of virus spread decreasing. I would note, too, on the NCAA guidance, some sports have been realigned from medium risk to high risk. Higher ed is definitely seeing some action here, with players at some colleges banding together to insist on change on a variety of fronts.  Want more higher ed data? Here is what they are all up to in terms of course delivery this year.

Last week I mentioned the “pod” movement, which I suspect some of us had been hearing rumbles about for a while. I have been thinking a lot about it and how we can capitalize on it. My thinking here comes from an unlikely place – my hairdresser. The last time I went, I brought my husband and son with me (both of who are hair challenged, I’ll let you figure out which struggles with issue of plenty and a bit less so). My hairdresser was relieved not to have to monitor how far we were from each other, and to have us there outside of “normal” hours. One of the main ideas behind many of these pods is that the families have agreed not to have the students in the group socially distanced, creating as more normalcy as possible. When you think about your campus, can your cohorts become something like pods? When you think about the times you do not use your campus resources, are there opportunities for pods to come to campus to use the specialty spaces (e.g., art room, maker space, gym, etc.). There is a lot out there on pods…. In case you need more, here is an overview of how two schools are helping to facilitate these, including how these pods might continue to fuel inequality in education in our country. How do they get started? Bands of rogue mamas.

In the meantime, as I have been writing this, I have been attending a webinar hosted by ISM on reopening and teacher surveys around their comfort level with returning to campus. Some interesting polling data. In terms of returning to campus, 28% of polled schools said they were returning fulling in-person, 14% said totally virtual, and 59% said that they would be using a hybrid approach.  789 teachers polled, provided that in the South, 83% of those surveyed said they would be returning to school this fall. This is going to hold us in better stead than our peers in the Mid-Atlantic, who are looking at only 44% wanting to return or the west, reporting in at 41%. Our teachers apparently seem to be less afraid to return overall as well. So that’s good news.

The other piece of good news … I am encouraged to know that some heads are starting to look around the next corner to the strategic questions in our future. To that end, we had a session with Marc Frankel and Judy Schechtman from Triangle Associates yesterday, and we have another opportunity next week on leading bravely. Some of the conversation from yesterday really focused on the notion that not all parents and not all board members might stick with us through these rapids as we continue through the upcoming academic year, and that is okay. But, that the job for all of us, but particularly our boards is to focus on the long-term strength of our institutions coming out the other side of this time. Marc and Judy recommended really helpful to give board members real, appropriate work to do right now, and get them out of the weeds to where they are most valuable. Jane and Jim Hulbert weighed in on this recently with this article as well.  This reminds me that in our welcome session for heads new to SAIS that we did on Wednesday, someone referenced the book Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times.

Before you do all of that, do remember to take care of yourself and take time to step away. I am seeing some of the sleepless eye circles from March and April re-appear as you all drive so hard towards these first days. Do not forget to take the time to recharge. For me, this shows up as anxiety, and this article helped me a bit.

Finally, there is an election coming. And, it might be done primarily through the mail, potentially having more people voting than ever before. NBOA does a good job of noting how to think about it when it comes to handling political speech from staff, but this session we are doing next week will help you strike a tone of functional discourse.  We have another session going, too, on key legal, policy, and operational decisions with Baker Donaldson next Wednesday. You know, in case you’re bored.

I leave you with the latest coronavirus overhaul of MC Hammer. First head of school that can send me a video with all his dance moves gets a prize.

Have a great weekend!

Debra