It was Thursday afternoon. I was anxiously waiting to hear the outcome of the meeting with Governor Inslee. I had a lot on my agenda that day but found myself struggling to get through anything without my mind drifting. How will our scholars feel if we have to close our school? How will we continue to teach so that no scholar falls behind? Will we really be closed for two weeks? What about my son’s daycare? My thoughts were interrupted by the buzzing of my phone. I slowly peered down knowing that the message would not be in my favor. There it was: Governor Inslee announced that schools would be closing their doors on Tuesday at the latest. We had until 2:00 PM to share our messages and plans with our families, faculty and community members. My mind was racing; so much so that it wasn’t until a colleague checked in with me that I realized starting next week, our school would be closed for six weeks! With this realization, my heart started pounding as I began to fight back tears. I couldn’t stop asking myself, “What does this mean for our scholars and their families?”
Before I could get lost in my thoughts, we were called into action. The leadership team huddled with the home office team to ensure our rollout was ready to go. It amazed me how every leader in the room jumped right into action. By the time we left, packets were being sent to the printers, calls were being made, and Chromebooks were being organized. It was as if we had been preparing for this for a year. Although the harsh reality was that in 24 hours we needed to be ready to take our scholars virtual for the next month-and-a-half.
That afternoon, Ms. Bean called a last-minute faculty huddle. As tears flooded her eyes, she shared about how we were entering uncharted territory and how we needed to prioritize the health and safety of our community and ourselves. She continued by saying, “We know that learning is critical to our scholars’ futures, and we will work during this time to further student academic progress and our organization’s progress to the best of our ability.” Hearing Ms. Bean’s message, in addition to seeing how the IPS staff received it, I became encouraged and hopeful. I recognized the weight of the time we were preparing to face but suddenly felt that we would get through this together.
That next morning, I received an email from Mrs. Wickens, our Chief Executive Officer. It was a blurb about a GoFundMe page she started titled, “Equal Access to Online Learning.” The message stated that we have worked so hard this year, and to continue our efforts our goal was to ensure EVERY scholar had access to a Chromebook/laptop and WiFi. Before I could finish reading, I noticed a handful of donations popping up. Tears began to fill my eyes. People I had never heard of started contributing toward this ambitious goal. I began to share the account with my friends and family members. Throughout the day, I found myself checking in on our progress. Every time I looked, the amount had increased enough to purchase another Chromebook. The emotions really started flooding when I noticed our school’s own family members contributing. Some shared encouraging messages. Others donated in their scholar’s name. I was so incredibly moved to see the generosity of others. There was a call to action, and our community responded loudly.
I spent the next two hours visiting classrooms to share the news with scholars. I knew this part would be difficult. Every visit took longer than expected as we wanted time for scholars to openly share their thoughts and reflections. The overall feeling as I left the classroom was sadness. Sadness about not seeing their friends, sadness about not seeing their teachers and sadness about not being able to come to school and learn. As I left a kindergarten class, a young scholar tugged on my shirt and said, “Mrs. B, I am feeling sad. I am feeling sad because I love my school.” I choked back tears, knelt down, offered him a hug and assured him that we were going to be okay.
I walked back to my desk to follow up on additional tasks. Ms. Cedano was feverishly printing away and working on finishing enough packets for every scholar. I found out later that she had arrived at the school before 5 AM to ensure everything would be ready for dismissal. As I was in the office, teachers and parents were walking in and out, gathering enough pencils, cubes, packets and any other resource they thought might be helpful. Just as in the grocery stores, I saw the shelves emptying before my eyes. This continued throughout the day. The hustle in the school was unreal.
As we said our goodbyes, scholars were embracing their teachers, guardians were thanking the faculty and the doors were slowly closing. Emotionally I was not prepared for us to close for the next six weeks.
I am writing this after our first virtual week. I continue to find my mind wandering, but now it is toward thoughts like, How did I get so lucky to work at a place like Impact? What are other schools doing? How can we motivate our scholars to use Lexia and ST Math even more? While I am anxious to return to school and see all of our scholars and faculty members again, I am writing this from a place of feeling calm. I am calm because after our first closed week of school, I know we can do this. I’ve worked in education for many years, and never have I worked with such a dedicated group of people and such a supportive community. Every person has a role in helping us come out on top and every person is committed to their part.
Today I feel at peace and thankful. At peace because I know we will be okay and thankful to everyone who has made virtual learning possible. I am thankful to our home office team for ensuring all families have a Chromebook/laptop and internet access, thankful to guardians for becoming at-home teachers, thankful to admin for continuing the work on the ground and for supporting teachers, and thankful to teachers for calling every scholar twice each week in addition to all of their other duties. If you are reading this, I am also thankful for you. You have found our blog, which means you are curious about, currently supporting, and/or interested in Impact. Impact is the place to be when times are great and in times when facing the unexpected. Thank you for your interest, and thank you for your support.
“Alone we can do so little; Together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller