The new and concerning virus, Covid-19, is causing major disruptions to our usual routines. To stop the spread of the virus and limit its impact, across the country, schools and districts have been ordered to shutter their doors and have asked students and school staff to stay home. The Governor of Massachusetts has closed all schools until at least April 6.
While from a public health perspective these closures are essential, both the speed with which this has happened and the degree of isolation this can produce is extraordinarily disruptive to our school communities and to families with school age children. Schools are closed for prolonged periods, creating disruption in many of the aspects of the school community that are so essential to students’ learning and sense of support and connection. Schools have not had an opportunity to plan sufficiently for the home-based lessons that can help provide the needed structure to students’ days. For many school staff, work has been cut off mid-stream and they are left to organize ways to continue the academic work or at least put it on hold without losing the gains students made pre-shut down. Students and families that relied on school-based resources for before and after school care as well as nutritional services are now suddenly without these supports and left to their own devices (although many school districts have worked to provide access to nutritional services with daily pick up, locations and schedules). We are hopeful that many of these concerns will begin to be addressed in time, but the current unknown status of the situation, both in terms of the shut downs and the spread of the virus, can be one of the most stressful and traumatic elements.
We, like many of you, have been disrupted in our routines and our own sense of community has been impacted. Beginning this week, TLPI staff will be working remotely in response to the public health emergency resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. We will continue operations by responding to e-mails, phone calls and website requests as normal, but will be doing so from outside our office. As we began preparing for this transition, we grappled with how to stay connected as a team and thought it might be helpful to schools and districts to create an opportunity to join us in thinking through how to maintain the strong sense of community that exists in trauma-sensitive, safe and supportive schools when the schools have been shut down.
As mentioned in a recent message from the Aspen Institute’s President and CEO, “in moments of crisis, our communities sustain us.” Our hope is that the TLPI learning community can provide a space to free our creativity and to think together about how we respond to these unprecedented events. Over the course of the next few weeks, we plan to share a series of “website chats” through our blog posts. Our hope is to not only offer our thinking but to also create a space where others can share what they are doing to foster community and connection while maintaining the necessary physical distance. We will address issues related to the school closings, how they may be impacting our sense of community as well as impacting families, students and staff, and sharing ours and others ideas about ways to proactively take action to maintain our sense of community and support students, families and staff. We invite you to share your ideas in the comments section below.
We remain committed to supporting this learning community and doing all that we can to be helpful during these uncertain times.
Please stay tuned for more to come!