Wow! What a whirlwind week it has been! Exactly one week ago we were in school, wondering what the status of school in Vermont would be for the foreseeable future. Other schools in other states had started closing down due to the rapid spread of the Cornonavirus (aka COVID-19). Because of my role, the principal had asked me a few days earlier to look into a few tech-related questions associated with closing school and transitioning to elearning. Friday afternoon he was pulled into a meeting at the Superintendents office and the Governor of VT was scheduled to speak in the evening. We were all (mentally) prepared to be shut down. But nope, Governor Scott said that schools will remain open. By Saturday schools within an hour from us had started closing and by Sunday the state of NH closed down their schools. Governor Scott made an announcement Sunday evening saying that schools in Vermont would also be closing and had to be closed by Wednesday, and that parents could optionally keep their kids home all week. There was a lot of confusion about the whole thing and we all waited anxiously for word on Sunday night about what the plan for Monday would be. It felt like a surreal snow day situation. Late Sunday night we got word that school would be open for students on Monday and Tuesday, then support staff would stay through Thursday and teachers would stay through Friday. We went in Monday to about half the student population, and by Monday night we were all feeling the rush. Our Wednesday staff meeting got canceled, the professional development I was supposed to do all morning on Wednesday got moved up to Tuesday with the boss finding coverage wherever he could for me and the other teachers. I had sub coverage on Monday and Tuesday while I rushed around, getting things setup, getting accounts made and Chromebooks organized and staff supported. It was wild. Kids had cracked and bleeding hands from washing so often. The run on Purell and toilet paper was a constant source of amazement and conversation. On Tuesday we had about 25% of the student body and staff was told we would have Wednesday to finish prepping, but that’s it. By 5pm Tuesday, when many of us were still there, prepping and handing out Chromebooks, we got a message from the Superintendent that staff should stay home Wednesday, but admin would be there for the whole duration. As of Thursday, admin were told to stay home full time too. It was crazy! Like every minute things were changing and even sometimes when it wasn’t officially changed, we all had the feeling that it would be changing and were acting accordingly. It was nuts.
Now we are all home. The time is sort of a blur. The kids are in “vacation” mode and I’m in email hell. Flipping a whole district from school-based to “home learning” is a big undertaking, and to do it in three days is insane! The internet is exploding with companies offering free services for closed schools, free books, free video chat, free apps, free this free that. All that’s great, but trying to keep track of any of it is insane. I’m now supporting 300+ people remotely, learning how to use new products on the fly so I can support teachers who are asking how to use them, trying to prep library lessons, and (kinda) keeping track of my own kids. Trying to stay on top of emails. It’s nuts. All the gyms have closed and some have switched to Livestreaming workouts. Karate has closed, but is now doing workouts in a Zoom session (like a virtual conference where everyone is wearing a gi and armed with bos and sais). Even drum lessons will be done remotely starting Monday. That should be interesting.
Also, my kids are supposed to be elearning too! Lots of emails from their schools and their teachers. “Home Learning” doesn’t officially start until Monday, a fact which both kids remind me of, frequently. Next week will bring more emails as parents and students try logging in and using all the new tools for the first time. I’m hoping by the end of next week things will settle down. My boss was nice enough to lower his library expectations (though I have not) so I can focus on the tech.
Hopefully by next week we’ll have settled in to this new normal. We are currently closed until April 6th, but the general consensus is that we’ll be closed (much) longer than that. The unknown makes everything even harder to plan for. What a weird and surreal experience.
On a lighter note, I’m so thankful that I work with kind and flexible coworkers, that the technology exists to make this type of transition happen, and that my own family is healthy and well and not worried for our own health or financial stability. I’m thankful that the weather is warming and the days are getting longer. Can you imagine if this had happened in January?! At least now we can get outside, take the dog for a walk (the hilariously naked dog), and breath in the sunshine and fresh air.
Hang in there world, friends, and family. We’ll all get through this and I’ll see you on the other side. <3
And now, your moment of zen…