Dear EWS Community,
The question of how we best respond to the Coronavirus pandemic is incredibly complex – intellectually, emotionally, and even ethically. Consider the following.
Even as a non-scientist, I know that social distancing – which now dominates the news – is an effective way of slowing the spread of a contagion. But people are social beings. So before deciding on extreme measures in this regard, policy makers must consider a host of issues, including the relative danger of the contagion and an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages that flow from those measures. In the case of closing the rodeo, for example, it’s a question of entertainment and economics. With schools, it’s different. Here, it’s kids and education.
Of course, not all schools are similarly-situated. A private school’s student population will typically have access to technology that many public schools’ do not. In fact, just across the street from Emery/Weiner is an elementary school in which over 90% of the kids are on the Federal free lunch program. So if that school closes, not only will many of those students not have access to remote learning – many will also miss meals. Considered in this light, the decision to cancel, close, or quarantine for the sake of reducing pressure on health care providers comes at a different societal cost. This perspective is shared by a professor from Johns Hopkins in her New York Times essay here
And yet, there are those who see it differently. For example, another professor from Johns Hopkins argues that helping reduce the spread of a deadly disease should be a priority – even when doing so is inconvenient. His essay in The Atlantic is here
. And to be sure, even though kids seem largely unaffected by Corona, we can rightfully worry about their ability to transmit it not only to each other in a school’s close quarters, but to staff and teachers – many of whom are themselves more vulnerable and many of whom have more vulnerable loved ones. In short, for a school that teaches the primacy of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world and caring for our neighbors, the notion of sacrificing for a larger good is a powerful lesson.
In the end, this isn’t just a hard decision, it’s an excruciating one. The question isn’t just whether to close, it’s if so, when and for how long?
In the end, after several days of reading competing articles, scouring various websites, and conferring with local experts, colleagues and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, I’ve decided that Emery/Weiner will cancel all on-site classes and activities during the week of March 16-20
. Accordingly, students should bring all of their books and study materials home at the end the school day tomorrow, Friday, March 13, so they’ll be able to participate fully in a remote learning setting. Please note, on-line instruction will begin Monday, March 16
. Our Distance Learning Plan can be found: here
. Detailed instructions from division heads will be sent out soon to parents and students and posted on our website.
(Incidentally, but importantly, local area public school districts just announced closures – a decision that impacts several of our staff with children in those schools, thus further complicating the situation for us practically-speaking.)
Thankfully, our teachers have been preparing for distance teaching and have been preparing our students for remote learning. To be sure, it won’t be the same as classroom instruction – and not being on campus with their peers or participating in extra-curricular activities can affect the emotional well-being of our kids. So my hope is that our closure won’t last too long, but we haven’t determined specific end-dates. Instead, we will monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and provide weekly updates.
In sum, I think it’s fair to say that this is an unprecedented situation – it’s certainly nothing most of us have experienced. I know there’s not only a great deal of confusion, there’s also a large degree of anxiety among many. As such, I thank you for your trust, patience, & understanding as we seek to navigate unchartered (and admittedly choppy) waters. We will continue to be in close touch, and please recall that our website has a new page devoted to this situation, which includes previous communications, updates, and information on our distance learning plan and protocols.
Thanks very much,
Stuart J. Dow
Head of School