Hard to believe but it was almost three years ago that I transitioned from Superintendent to my current role. As an administrator, I have dealt with fires, power outages, earthquakes, excessive heatwaves, a school shooting, and a host of challenges. With that said, never in my life have I seen a situation such as the one we are experiencing today. At the time of this writing, at least 46,000 schools have announced closures due to Coronavirus with an estimated 21 million students affected across the United States. I believe that these numbers will grow in the coming hours and days. [Note: at time of publication on March 18, 2020 this number has grown to 91,000 schools and 41.7 million students]. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released yesterday suggested that school closures of at least eight weeks "might be the most effective way to control the Coronavirus."
These are unprecedented times.
As would be expected, the focus right now is on the health and safety of all and particularly for our children. Our educational community is also thinking creatively about ways to extend learning opportunities during closures. Schools are community centers that also provide food, counseling, health services, before- and after-school care, and other benefits to communities. The disruption from these extended closures is hard to fathom.
School leaders are navigating uncertainty, ensuring that all stakeholders are updated, and developing emerging plans as the context shifts. I remember that when we had a school shooting I didn't sleep for several days, running on adrenaline as long as I could so that I could be supportive of others during an intensely difficult time. Within days I had developed two ear infections and it took me weeks to recover physically from the exhaustion. When I reflect on that experience, I don't know that I could have approached the situation any other way. This situation is going to be different. It is likely to go on for a much, much longer period of time.
View educator and parent guides from Altitude Learning to support the transition to distance learning.
Given this context and based on my experience, my succinct advice for school leaders is to follow these three suggestions:
I am so grateful for the courageous leadership that I am seeing from educational leaders across the nation. Thanks to all who serve our children, our communities, and our society. I appreciate and applaud your efforts during this difficult time.
This post originally appeared on the Learner-Centered Leadership blog on March 14, 2020.
Access resources for families as they transition to managing learning at home in Katie Martin's article Creating Authentic Learning Experiences at Home