Scott Young recently noted that when we opened in September, we were working hard to sustain on-campus learning as long as possible, but we truly were not counting on still being on campus when Halloween came around, let alone considering the potential impact of family holiday plans at Thanksgiving and Winter Break on campus health and safety.
And yet, here we are, moving into the holiday season, cautiously optimistic that we will continue to teach and learn on campus. We may, surely, have to pivot back and forth to remote learning at times, either on a cluster-basis or as a full campus, but we believe we have built and sustained a structure that can support our ongoing campus presence.
Families may be aware of many of the structures and systems in place that have made all this possible. We redesigned the entire carpool system. We established dedicated grade-specific entrances and hallways, clearly marked with signage. Cluster-based classes, lunch, and recess keep students gathered safely within their groups. Teachers whose role crosses grade- and cluster-groupings Zoom into classrooms to protect the integrity of our clusters. Air filters were replaced and upgraded throughout the HVAC system. Park’s miraculous Food Service team even manages to prepare between 460 and 500 individually packaged lunches that follow dietary needs and food preferences. That’s a lot of boxes of food!
But did you know about these less visible acts that make the campus day to day possible?
- The COVID Task Force meets every single day school is in session to review that day’s data, both on campus and in the surrounding community. The Task Force is also on point for the myriad questions surfacing throughout the community when families or employees wonder if circumstances they encounter present a risk to the Park community.
- The Facilities Team deep cleans and sanitizes all classrooms nightly as well as the stairwells every morning after students arrive. High touch surfaces are cleaned multiple times per day. They check and refill all the touchless hand sanitizer and soap dispensers.
- Facilities put together 150 cleaning and disinfection kits for classrooms, Zoom rooms, and offices. Faculty wipe down desks twice a day.
- Eight electrostatic spray guns are used twice per week to disinfect surfaces — the same tool used by organizations like United Airlines. Proven more effective than disinfectant wipes or power-washing, they attach a positive charge to the disinfectant spray so that it attaches to the negatively charged germs in our spaces. (Turns out, who knew….most everything around us has a negative charge.)
- The Facilities Team also relocated six classrooms and 11 offices, and moved six Pod-fulls of furniture to off campus storage to make way for COVID-safe, socially-distanced classroom set ups. The team also helps with carpool every morning and afternoon, picks up trash from every outdoor picnic lunch location, and mows under the tents when they’re not in use. All this, on top of the usual routines of campus maintenance cleaning, trash disposal, landscaping…not to mention snow removal.
- Administrators and staff take on Lower Division lunch duty coverage daily to allow classroom teachers to have a break during recess and lunch. In a normal year, teachers are on duty during this period on a rotating schedule, but in a normal year, those teachers also have regular breaks during the academic day when specialists or club leaders take over their classrooms. This year, teachers are fully “on” all day with their clusters, and these additional volunteers at lunchtime provide an essential break.
- When a given cluster or supercluster is sent to remote learning, along with their teachers, members of administration and staff pick up extra shifts to provide support and coverage for those now off campus.
- The Physical Education Department, because its members teach outdoors and are therefore able to work across clusters, also pick up extra duties when teachers are not able to be on campus.
- Mina Roustaei (Receptionist) and Shakera Bramwell (Assistant to the Division Heads) created a virtual “Lost & Found” catalog, now shared online to support students and families find lost belongings now that parents can’t come into the building to track things down itself. An awesome effort by staff to fill an unexpected, COVID-driven need, which a parent described as “Warmth in every sense of the word.”
- Tent classrooms become a wilderness adventure when it rains or snows–bundle up!
- Lower Division Head Kimberly Formisano’s office is now used by second graders meeting with tutors or specialists on Zoom. She keeps her professional life in a backpack and travels around the building looking for empty rooms in which to work.
- Members of the Communications Office support the Lower Division carpool effort, even donning the bright yellow vest to serve as crossing guard in the afternoon or holding umbrellas over small people who didn’t come prepared with rain gear.
- Parents are serving as Park Ambassadors, reaching out to prospective families who don’t have the usual opportunity to come to campus, tour the halls, and feel the spirit of Park in person.
- Bus drivers have become health attestation experts, confirming that every bus-riding student is safe to come to school on a daily basis.
- Park’s annual “picture day” became an elaborate engineering feat, scheduling every student and employee for a picture. “Picture Day” became two picture days in recognition that only half of Grade 6-8 students are on campus on a given day. And then “retake day” became two retake days, working around the Grade 6-8 schedule as well as the intersection of clusters moved to remote learning in October.
All considered, the phrase “it takes a village” just begins to touch on the elaborate, collaborative effort that happens daily at Park — and yet everyone somehow keeps smiling. People keep saying “yes” when asked to help. Many are tired, and sometimes the weekend can’t come soon enough, but while we’re here, making THIS work is important.
The myth of Sisyphus describes a man fated to push a heavy stone up a hill for eternity, only to have it roll down the other side when he reached the top. Admittedly, these days do sometimes feel like we’re pushing a rock up a hill, again and again. But in French philosopher Albert Camus’s version of the myth, Sisyphus is smiling. Why?
Perhaps it’s because the work itself — the mission itself — and the challenge inherent to it matters–even if it’s hard, even if it’s hard to see if we’re getting anywhere…even if our glasses fog over. The work we do together matters, however we manage to get it done, with however many hands and spirits.
And so, yes, we smile. Your children make us smile. Bundling out of the car in the morning in floppy rubber boots and carrying two backpacks while they wave and shout “I love you” back at the car window. We smile, even in the rain.
Sure, sometimes it’s cold or wet and the smile is harder than at other times. But reflecting back on the work done, we do still smile. We get up and we come to school — and we look forward.