There was little joy to be had by the string of news stories that broke yesterday while our children and faculty were on campus together, finishing off our days to go home to a series of local and national headlines and crises that were difficult to comprehend, much less process. I at least smiled when a social media post moved across my screen that read, “Here’s to 2022! 2021 was a solid five days.” You may have also smiled if you tasted your first piece of king cake in several months. I find that it makes for a good breakfast as well as dessert for lunch and dinner. It’s fair to assume that most, if not all, of us entered 2021 with optimism for the days, weeks and months ahead. Unfortunately, though we may hope, pray, resolve and act on our resolutions, flipping a page of a calendar doesn’t equate directly to an immediate transition. Just last week I thought about how we must put wheels on our prayers, our aspirations as well as our resolutions. Today we also need wings, an appeal to our better angels.
Yesterday brought events that affected us as New Orleanians and Americans. It is accurate to say that we have a dual pandemic, and the national health and safety challenges to our well-being are equaled by the challenges to not only our core principles of civil discourse and decency but also democracy. What happened at the Capitol as well as the levels of community spread are both alarming, and both hit home.
New Orleans, today at a 10.4% positive test rate, announced a shift to a modified version of Phase 1 yesterday afternoon. We also learned earlier this week that New Orleans Public Schools will go virtual as of tomorrow. Both pandemic updates put to work our Crisis Response Team and consultations with our health care experts and colleagues at other local ISAS schools.
Our plan, grounded in the fact that, since August, we have yet to have any confirmed community spread on campus, is to remain steady but vigilant with our current protocols. These protocols are working in large part because of you. Our ability to stay open and stay the course has been and is dependent upon our community abiding by not only our own StG community agreements, but also the city’s restrictions. Dr. Avegno herself has asked that I remind all of us in our community, as well as the larger independent school community, that our ability to remain on campus and in person is up to us. By this, she means that it is largely determined by our behaviors outside of school--social indoor gatherings outside of our family households, large or even smaller but often without masks—are major vectors of local community spread. As the city moves to the modified version of Phase 1, we strongly encourage families to heed these precautionary measures, highlighted in the city plan linked above, so that our students, faculty and staff remain safe on campus. Should the LDH or LDOE offer further guidelines or an inability to staff a grade or a division be necessary, we will of course let you know and be prepared to enact our virtual at home learning plans.
Speaking of educational plans, many of them today were impacted today by the news in D.C. As we work towards the ideals of our democracy, it once again reminds us of the ongoing work as a community to become a more just, equitable, diverse and inclusive St. George’s Episcopal School. That work continued for us today and this week in the context of the news coming to us from the Capitol. It is the nature of young students to want to talk about what they’ve seen and heard. Their comments and questions are not gossip but instead a means of comprehending and making sense of something new and difficult. We want to share with you how these queries brought to us by our Middle School students have been handled by our incredibly talented and compassionate faculty and staff.
In an email to Middle School teachers yesterday evening, Perrin Jones, Director of Middle School, expressed, “We have a golden opportunity to model the kind of discourse and compassion we want our students to grow into.” How lucky we are to have our core values of perseverance, integrity, respect and compassion so ingrained in our daily interactions at St. George’s! She encouraged teachers to remain non-partisan, keep calm, provide time for students to process their thoughts and emotions outside of the context of scheduled lessons, and to use both her and Tamara Claverie as resources and additional assistance.
Ms. Jones also recorded a video message for the Middle School students, which they viewed this morning. While many of us feel there is much to stand against right now, there is also much to stand for, and for us as a community that begins with our school culture and how we not only communicate but embody it. I invite you to watch Ms. Jones’ morning message. It is a model for all educators and parents in how to calmly discuss and reassure students while inspiring us once more to remember those better angels. I thank her for it. It made a significant difference personally to me last night when I watched it, and I think it will do so for you as well.
You may also be searching for the right words and approach with your children to discuss the events in Washington, D.C., or COVID-19. Mrs. Claverie has recommended the following links for parents:
- How to Talk to Your Child About the News (for Parents) - Nemours
- Perspective | When the news intrudes: Helping kids make sense of the media
- Parenting in a Pandemic: Tips to Keep the Calm at Home
- Pandemic parenting: How COVID school, screens, stress impacts kids
We can all heed Ms. Jones’ advice to be patient and kind with each other, to listen first and think before we speak, and to be bold enough to find joy and hope in the future of our city and our nation. Let’s recommit ourselves to peace.
I give you the line from our school prayer that resonates most with me now: May St. George’s always be a place where children love to learn and learn to love.
- Middle School