HEAD OF SCHOOL MESSAGE: UNDERSTANDING TWO SETS OF CONCERNS
A wide spectrum of perspectives exist on reopening school
One of the great things about being part of a community is watching its members pull together in difficult times. I have received your emails and phone calls and read many of your social media posts so I know that the last two months has been trying, even though many of you praised the great work our teachers were doing. While it was not ideal, I believe the online learning experience has equipped our teachers and students with some new skills and perspectives that will serve them well in the future. Yet all of us long to return to what we remember as school prior to March 19.
Not surprisingly, our community has a wide spectrum of perspectives on what actions are appropriate to reopen school. People fall all over the spectrum because people have widely varying circumstances. Some in our community will want school reopened with no limitations and some will be very hesitant to bring students back onto campus. We recognize there are valid reasons for both of those perspectives.
The coronavirus has taken a terrible toll on the health of our country. Two WC alumni health care professionals, Rachel (Meeker) Hartley (WC ’11) and Tom Huling (WC ’07) were featured in a New York Magazine article this month for moving to New York City and living on a houseboat that Rachel and her husband had sailed into New York harbor. There they cared for and bore witness to the devastating impact the virus has had on that city. Central Ohio has been spared the worst of it but still, several hundred have passed away and thousands more live with the realization that they are at high risk for catastrophic consequences should they contract the virus. We have many such people in our community – teachers, staff, students, and those in their immediate families who have asthma or heart conditions, are immune-compromised because of previous or ongoing cancer treatments, are diabetic, have a liver or blood disorder, or are over the age of 65. Over a dozen such people serve on WC’s staff. I am confident that the number of people either in high-risk groups or with someone in their immediate household with a high-risk number in the hundreds. The prospect of otherwise healthy individuals, for whom the disease is a minor inconvenience to their health, being a carrier in their vicinity can be troubling. These people are not fearful, but they are vulnerable. We recognize that as a school and understand the concern that these people have in returning to any kind of normal school operations.
Likewise, we understand that the shutdown related to the virus has placed an economic, psychological, and even spiritual burden on people. Shutting down or severely restricting human activity that God himself gives us – work, learning, community, worship – takes a different kind of toll on people. It causes anxiety from the loss of income or uncertainty about a family’s financial future. Sadness or even depression may creep in because a young person feels cut off from other people. The desire that God placed in each of us to grow and learn and do things has been stifled by this shutdown. Nearly all of us have experienced at least some of this stress over the last two months. This is a risk group in which all of us reside.
So as a school, we are faced with the kind of truly awful decision that we are often faced within a fallen world – trying to balance the very real concerns of the many with the catastrophic concerns of the few.
As a whole, I am not sure that Americans have done a great job of reconciling these two sets of concerns. We are bitterly polarized, with many staking out absolutist positions and painting those who disagree as either heartless or fearmongering. This message is a plea for the Worthington Christian community to avoid that. It is a call to the better angels of our nature that would surely recognize that even those we disagree with have valid concerns, especially when we consider their circumstances may be quite different from ours.
Right now, WC’s hope is that we can satisfy both sets of concerns in August by opening in a safe manner. While we are currently optimistic about that, we also recognize some things may be out of our control, and circumstances could change rapidly over the summer. Worthington Christian remains committed to educating the students we love, moving them as God allows toward a more complete mind and heart. We will do this through excellent teachers, learning experiences that shape the students’ hearts and minds, a community that offers so much support to each other, shared chapel experiences and so many other things that are personally and spiritually meaningful to our students.
Please join me tomorrow night for a Zoom call with our school families in which I will talk more about our current state of planning and where we go from here. Details on how to join the meeting were emailed to all families yesterday.
Looking forward to seeing everyone soon.