On behalf of the Saint John’s School administration and the Board of Trustees, I would like to wish every one of our families a healthy and restful spring break next week. We will return to our regular distance learning schedule on Monday, April 13th. The decision regarding our return to campus will be made after that date and based on the development of the COVID-19 situation locally.
The quarantine experience has been different for everyone, and every household has faced unique challenges. Some may be enjoying more free time at home during the lockdown. But our teachers have been working full time while learning new technologies and methodologies to maximize student learning. Your children have been working hard as well, attending classes, meeting the same intellectual demands asked of them while in regular school, but with the added stress and anxiety of being under lockdown and away from the comfort of school routines. We cannot minimize the emotional effects these circumstances may be having on our teachers and students and in order to preserve their mental health and ensure a successful end to the school year—whatever the venue—we need to take this break.
Some parents have expressed concerns about taking time off right now. They perceive that we have reduced class time, specifically because we are not holding formal classes on Fridays, and recommended we use this week to comply with curricular demands. Our modified schedule, however, does preserve instructional time. Keep in mind that the distance learning modality affords teachers more contact time with students as it eliminates class-to-class travel time, daily routines and classroom preparations. In addition, many activities that are typically scheduled during the school day are being held at alternate times. When you take all these factors into consideration, the actual instructional time our distance learning schedule allows in four days is almost identical to instructional time during a regular school week. In this modality, Fridays provide bonus time for students to meet individually with teachers, clarify doubts, deepen understanding and further enhance the learning experience.
Although concerns about instructional time are valid, we are certain that our students will not suffer any academic losses during distance learning. Even one less day of instruction or a topic not covered will not make a difference in our students’ readiness for the next academic year. More critical, and arguably more important for our children, is that they learn the lessons this pandemic is desperately trying to teach.
For every one of us who worries about the perceived loss of instructional time, there are thousands of children in neighboring communities who have lost all access to education for the foreseeable future. Whether because they are served by an underperforming school, or because they don’t have access to internet service, or to a device, or because their home environment is not conducive to learning, the academic gap for these children keeps broadening. For every one of us who complains about how much food our children are eating while stuck at home, there are thousands who have lost access to the meal they received at school, possibly the only meal they ate any one day. For every one of us who can’t wait for our spouse to go back to work, there are thousands who have said goodbye to a loved one never to see them again.
When we reflect on the effects of this pandemic on our world, and on other children, it seems silly to worry about the one or two topics that the teacher may not cover. Imagine if, in place of a unit missed, our children learned about privilege, about inequity, about the flaws in our public system of education. What if they came out of this crisis with the resolve to truly shape our changing world, to make our world good for everyone? What if, by hearing about what others are experiencing, they begin to understand and embody our school’s Mission? Isn’t that worth a spring break?
Enjoy this week of unstructured time, of meaningful conversations, of creative projects, of ice cream and cookies, of classic movies, of board games, and of the things that truly matter.