Dear NOVA community members,
The moment for which we have been preparing has arrived. A presumptive positive result to COVID-19 associated with Pioneer Elementary was diagnosed yesterday; the Olympia School District canceled school district-wide last night beginning on Monday, March 16. NOVA Middle School will close for instruction on campus on Monday as well and transition to our Distance Learning Plan. The length of our closure is not known at this time; we will remain closed as long as OSD is closed. The schools in the three counties closed by mandate of Governor Inslee yesterday are closed until April 24. I suspect the same will be true of OSD and NOVA. That is a very long time.
In addition to the disruption closing NOVA creates to the families of individual students, faculty and staff, the mass closing of all schools will cause significant disruption to our larger community. While all families will face reorientation of priorities and will be stretched and manage this change, others in our larger community will find the challenges nearly unbearable. If you or folks you know find yourself in that position, reach out to organizations in Thurston County prepared to help — Thurston County Food Bank and others. Many communities of faith are often resources for food and financial assistance whether you are a member or not. I expect their financial resources will be strained; if you are able even a small contribution will help them help our fellow citizens.
Social isolation may be a challenge for many. Technology and the Internet can help us stay connected. Using Facetime, Zoom and other platforms will serve us well; our kids will have their own groups to stay connected. Build some for yourself with friends, colleagues and family. I expect some students will request that they get together with their friends at the Mall, coffee shop or someone's home to study or socialize. Please resist. In the event you are with others social distancing practices should be followed wherever they and you are.
The strong relationships that are the backbone of NOVA will take a new expression under these circumstances. Students will be connecting with each other and their teachers electronically. Video instruction will not replace the camaraderie, individual connection, and instant differentiation that comes with a teacher and students in a classroom together but we will try. The first day or week may be awkward and have some bumps we didn’t anticipate. We will continue to work on it with feedback from students and from you. We will discover and develop different ways to connect and be in community during these upcoming weeks.
Later today you will receive another communication with more detailed operational information including a window of time on Monday that you can come to campus to retrieve anything that was left at NOVA yesterday such as musical instruments, a chromebook (each of your students will need access to a computer every day during school hours), a textbook, library book, water bottle, lunchbox or clothes.
It may be the enthusiast in me. Though this situation is not of my choosing, I embrace this circumstance as an opportunity to create new patterns in relationships, getting to know each other in new and different ways, problem solving, living in community, learning, introspection, living our values, seeing “the other,” and developing deeper compassion. This will not be easy. We must have patience with each other and ourselves. What stories we will have to tell when we are gathered in physical community again.
With warmest regards for each of you,