Head of School Blog

LJA Exceptionalism: Our Best Defense in a Post-COVID Shutdown World

As our state and federal policymakers seek to do their best for constituents, it is instructive to note how communities across the nation have responded.  Differences of opinion have risen not just to crescendo--nothing wrong with a little passion--but dangerous cacophony.  We seem to have lost our ability, as a polity, to work together for the common good.  As we look to emerge from distance learning mode and resume face-to-face learning, our community’s willingness and ability to work together will no doubt be tested, but I truly believe that those at LJA will succeed in coming together where others have not.

Our transition back to campus is slowly underway and will continue to occur in measured phases as conditions permit.  For the past month, school leaders have been developing practices, procedures and protocols around health, safety, and cleanliness using guidelines from both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Health (DOH). These procedures have been reviewed with comment by the DOH and our own LJA medical hui, a group of medical professionals with an interest in supporting LJA. These procedures will also be vetted with increasingly larger groups of students throughout the summer in a variety of programs as we intentionally seek to restore LJA’s strong sense of community--which will be the key to our success in this COVID-consumed world.

Community is the core strategy in our effort to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.  It will take hard and concerted work by each and every one of us in order to successfully reopen and keep our community healthy.  Now more than ever, we need everyone in our LJA ‘ohana to know the importance of their actions and words--notwithstanding individual preferences or beliefs about the virus and its transmission--as we seek to protect the most vulnerable among us and provide all with access to the LJA experience.

Communities establish and reinforce behavioral norms through language, routine and ritual.  As we reconvene select activities later this summer--classes, outdoor experiences, sports--we should expect that our norms will change in small but significant ways.  Parents who would normally allow children to go to school with cold symptoms will be asked to keep children home. Teachers will be asked to use instructional strategies with which they might not be accustomed in order to reduce the “sustained proximal contact” among individuals.  Masks and other distancing measures may be adopted for some situations and not others.  

These are the actions that our community expects and requires, and your kokua is not only appreciated but needed so that we might advance.  This is what differentiates healthy communities from fractured communities: engaging in productive conversation and, at times, subordinating individual preferences for the good of the whole.

You’ve heard a lot of different solutions to keep our community safe and healthy, but LJA has adopted the two tactics that have been found thus far to be most impactful in preventing community spread of COVID-19: (1) keeping “sick” children home and (2) practicing good personal hygiene.  By “sick” we invoke a new “standard” that you will see in our guidelines.  In a nutshell, if your child shows any of a number of respiratory infection symptoms, you are expected to keep your child home.  When it comes to hygiene, some may consider the emphasis on “thorough” hand-washing to be almost obsessive, but it certainly effective.  Because these practices have not been “normal” in the past, some adjustment in our behaviors and routines will be required.  You will hear our students, faculty and school leaders repeating this mantra in different ways as we navigate forward. Please understand that this is a matter of life and death for some in our ‘ohana, so it comes from a sense of care and duty for each other. 

I know that I speak for our Trustees, faculty and staff when I say that we are looking forward to returning to school and reconnecting with our ‘ohana again.  It will take some adjustment--like a sailor with “sea-legs” walking on land after months at sea--but by recommitting ourselves to engaging in conversation and adapting to new norms and practices, I have no doubt that we have laid the groundwork to ensure a safe environment for all in which extraordinary learning experiences will once again thrive.