Dear Principals and Early Childhood Directors,
On Saturday, Indiana reported its first confirmed case of coronavirus, or COVID19, adding to the list of 19 states. Sunday morning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (yes, I am on the road) reported 400 confirmed cases with 19 deaths attributed to COVID19. Now Sunday night, the confirmed cases have surpassed 550 cases, 21 deaths, with 34 states now reporting confirmed cases. World-wide, the number of deaths has topped 3500, with 105,000 people infected.
These numbers will rise. Today, Dr. Jerome Adams, the US Surgeon General, reported that the initial “posture of containment” that would “give people the time to prepare for right now,” has shifted to “a mitigation phase, which means we are going to help communities understand…we’re going to see more deaths, but that doesn’t mean we should panic.” New York is the first in the nation to declare a state of emergency.
As I shared with all 4 regions, it is time for you to prepare in the face of the vast, teeming uncertainty surrounding COVID19. While nothing is certain about this pressing concern, you can achieve some clarity with your church and school enterprises; your clarity is the one thing you can control.
Attached are documents from the Allen County (Fort Wayne) Department of Health, which will keep you informed (the CDC document will all but confirm the rapid acceleration of infection since Thursday, being that its statistics are outdated in a matter of a few days) of precautions to take.
Succinctly, my advice remains four-fold:
- Keep informed from reliable sources.
- Engage your Pastor(s), Board Chair (of full Board), and Leadership Teams in a discourse of proactive planning.
- Start serious conversations with your faculty about instruction and assessment for a four-week window of home-centered instruction (as the incubation period of COVID19 is 14 days, closure of schools will be a minimum of four weeks).
- Assure your students and their families that, in the midst of another anxiety-ridden situation, your school is standing beside them and that you will continue to hear their laments. I encourage you to continue to minister to your families in this way.
In conversations with all of you last week, I learned about two instances in our Lutheran Schools which underscore the importance of controlling what we can now; better yet these suggest how you can measure a proactive response. In one school, the principal walked into the restrooms prior to lunch, looked at the number of paper towels in the trash cans, and then after lunch went back to investigate; there were no more paper towels disposed than prior to lunch. In another school, the janitor responded that she only has to refill restroom soap containers every three months or so. What will be your immediate measured response, or better yet your students’ measured responses? Your staff and students might very well have ideas of their own to suggest.
While it is not very likely that not every Lutheran School in Indiana will be requested to close by Health Departments, some might. Thus, I would like to suggest questions for you and your leadership to address now for home-centered learning (which is much more involved than an e-Learning day, hence a new term for a new paradigm) if closure is mandated:
- How will we engage students in the learning process? Assessment?
- Given the extreme anxiousness about health and safety, how will we address the fear and uncertainty students face? How often?
- What are our learning expectations? What are our expectations of parents for home-centered instruction? What are our expectations of teachers?
- How will we assure faculty and staff that the church and school enterprise will continue to support workers (salary, benefits, and well-being)?
- What are the rules we will set about presence on the closed campus? How does, or does, the campus need to be staffed during closure?
- How will parents keep informed of developments? Staff? Students (especially young students)?
- Are our decisions decidedly proactive, or reactive?
- What kinds of words, what vocabulary, will we choose to use and reference? (e.g. will we use “pandemic” as a reference, or are there other ways to communicate to prevent panic?)
- What reliable resources will we rely upon, and encourage of staff and families to consult?
- Which information from the Allen County Health Department (the attachments) is useful to us and our situation?
To start the discourse in your enterprise, I have also attached an adaptation of an Allen County Health Department worksheet. I added that last question, “How best can we share our confidence that God is in the midst of this matter?”
Indeed God is “a very present help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46. Real. Present. God!