Weekly News and Notes, October 30
We have a few updates this week, but if you choose to only read one of them, please focus on the first.
It is no secret to anyone who has been following the news of late that the fall surge of COVID-19 is upon us. Fortunately, because of advances in treatment, the fatality rate has dropped, but, as we all know, the virus has no borders, no limits, no discretion. Of late, many schools in Massachusetts have been forced into full remote learning environments because of either the number of quarantine cases among the faculty or students. Still more concerning are the number of schools who need to close because they cannot guarantee safety or adequately minimize risks. This is for several reasons, but, most significantly, it is because of an inability to sufficiently contact trace when students are gathering socially on weekends or at night, and with students not always being forthcoming with information.
For example, several weeks ago, there was a gathering in a Massachusetts town with about 40-50 people present. Because the police were called, those in attendance scattered, as is prone to happen. However, because the attendees could not be validated, once one positive case were identified from that gathering, contact tracing was not possible, and an entire community was potentially put at risk. Consequently, athletics in those schools were temporarily suspended, all students forced to learn remotely, and additional emotions for the students and staff identified, from anger to fear to disappointment.
To bring it closer to home, I will share my overt concern with our community. Over the summer, I was inundated with messages from families, coaches, and, most significantly, student-athletes, who were, in their words, "devastated" that we were delaying - not cancelling - an athletic season, out of abundance of caution and safety. This anger made its way all the way to the School Committee level, and I shared at a meeting in early September that my gravest concern was how our seasons were hanging on very much by a thread, given the possibility of a cluster to a school, team, opponent, etc. There were those in the community who did not share my concern, but now, here we are, in late October/early November, dealing with that very potential.
I understand that "kids will be kids," and that we all long for a return to normalcy. It saddens me that kids have lost so much in these times - as an educator and as a parent. I know firsthand how our students miss their regular routines, seeing the same complement of friends at school, and being here like it used to be. I also understand that these are challenging times that require us all to adjust and compromise. I share that desire for normalcy and frustration with the situation. That said, this recent surge and the subsequent potential impact for our school has been keeping me up nights - since the thread I described at the start of the school year is straining and very much on the verge of tearing. If those students are still as worried about their season(s), I would hope that they would put the impact to team, school, and family above a couple hours of social time, or that they would try to be safe during those times.
As we head toward the holiday season, when more families gather, when more travel happens, when there is more likelihood of being in close contact with a broader number of people, please remember that we are in this together, that our actions count, and that what we do can have far-reaching consequences.
Heart of the Arts Award
Congratulations again to Ms. Penza, who earlier this month was presented with the Massachusetts Heart of the Arts award. To watch a quick video of the presentation, click here.
We will be taking school pictures next week. The schedule is listed below, as is a link to the order form.
Grade 8: 7:30 a.m.Grade 9: 8:00 a.m.Grade 10: 8:20 a.m.Grade 11: 8:45 a.m.
Grade 8 Civics Projects
Our grade 8 social studies team has been organizing the students' civics projects, and some of those projects are starting to take shape. The students' enthusiasm for this work is really exciting to watch, and we are looking forward to seeing how they engage with community and each other over the course of the year. You may see some messages from the school coming from the different groups - they have to do with effecting some sort of positive change in the world, and we sometimes share their surveys or information in order to help them have a real-world experience. Feel free to participate if you'd like!
Finally, on a personal level, I was able to accept the 2020 Massachusetts High School Principal of the Year this week, at a ceremony that the Massachusetts School Administrators' Association hosted here at Uxbridge High School. While the pandemic cancelled the typical plan for the award, it meant so much to me to be able to accept the award here in Uxbridge, with our staff, administrative team, School Committee, and my family in the audience. As I shared that day in my remarks, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work at this school and with this community, and while awards like this are validating, they hardly mean the end of the work. We look forward to continuing to keep our school moving forward, even in these challenging times!
Be safe and stay well.
Principal, Uxbridge High School