If you’re a fan of the television show “Friends,” or even if you have a basic familiarity with pop culture, there’s a well-known episode that feels all too familiar lately. You know, “the one where they move the couch.”
If you’re not familiar with this iconic scene, it involves Ross, Chandler, & Rachel trying to navigate the narrow stairs of their apartment with an oversized couch, only to have Ross repeatedly shout “PIVOT!” at Rachel and Chandler, as though it was helping the gravity of their situation.
That couch serves as an appropriate metaphor for this school year. Based upon new guidance and orders from the state, as well as feedback from our families and staff, we’ve been doing quite a bit of pivoting ourselves lately.
On July 17, we shared with families our plans to begin the school year in a blended model of instruction. Less than two weeks later, on July 29, we announced that instead we would be opening under a 100% remote instruction environment. PIVOT!
Initial communication regarding the creation of our new Westerville Virtual Academy indicated that families would be asked to make a year-long commitment to this educational option, only to formally announce on July 21 that families would be able to reconsider their decision at the semester break. PIVOT!
On August 6, we announced how we would be handling fall athletics and other activities based upon new orders from the Ohio Department of Health. The most notable aspect of this announcement was that we would not be permitting fall contact sports to participate in scrimmages or competition with other teams. Then, following a new state order, on August 19 we announced our intent to allow middle and high school contact sports to begin competing against other schools. PIVOT!
I wish I could assure you that the remainder of this school year will be pivot-free. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that’s true. In fact, I know it’s not true. The next significant decision ahead of us will be when we can transition from our current remote model of instruction to a blended model offering a combination of in-person and online instruction to all students.
Some people will appreciate the decision to transition to blended learning whenever it happens, while others will not. Some want it to happen sooner, while others don’t want it to happen at all. Some want us to go back to in-person instruction 100% of the time, while others want us to remain more cautious in our approach. We’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to reinforce that when making such decisions, we rely heavily upon the guidance and direction provided by the various health officials working closely with our district.
We’ve taken the necessary precautions to make sure our staff is prepared, our facilities are modified, and mitigation strategies are in place to keep kids as safe as possible when they return to class in our schools. We have the policies and procedures in place to support these new environments in which our staff will be working and students will be learning. We continue to collaborate with health officials to ensure that the procedures we have in place to monitor and communicate about confirmed COVID-19 cases are aligned with their recommendations. And, we’re ready to keep our lunchrooms, transportation vehicles, high-frequency touch points, and other common areas clean and disinfected for the safety of our students and staff.
One thing I’ve not hesitated to say is that remote instruction is far from ideal and we want students back in our classrooms as soon as possible. However, I’ll also be the first person to tell you that we must make sure we are well prepared for this to happen, and that we’ve worked with the health experts to confirm that we’re ready to take this next step. I believe we’re ready, and hopefully this next pivot can happen sooner, rather than later.
Towards the end of the scene, Ross says, “I don’t think it’s going to pivot anymore,” to which Rachel and Chandler reply in frustration, “You think?!”
We understand that our frequent pivots add to the sense of frustration that everyone seems to be feeling these days. However, I truly believe we’ll soon reach a point where the pivoting can stop. Until then, please know how much we appreciate everyone’s understanding and flexibility as we work together to get this couch up the stairs.
Once the coronavirus pandemic has officially passed and we look back on all of this, my hope is that we’ll find a few things to smile about and realize that all of the pivoting was worthwhile. Thank you once again for your support, friends, and welcome to the 2020-21 academic year in the Westerville City Schools!