Thursday, December 17, 2020
Note: The following op-ed ran in print and online in The Detroit News Thursday, December 17, 2020. Our accrediting agency, the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), supports the lawsuit filed by Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools (MANS) to help protect the freedom of private schools and support the responsible reopening of nonpublic high schools in Michigan that have appropriate health and safety protocols. I have been coordinating with their regional director Jeff Mattner and others at ACSI in efforts to support these actions in our state, including writing this Op-Ed in hopes of benefiting Cavalry and all other private schools in our area.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All for Michigan School Closure Policies
Calvary, like many religious nonpublic schools, has gone the extra mile during this pandemic to meet the needs of their families for academic rigor in a medically safe community setting. Michigan could be an ally with other states demonstrating responsible school openings by returning such decisions to the local level. Districts and nonpublic school systems know their own communities and the effectiveness of the board-approved protocols within their buildings.
The CDC reports that mental health visits by children aged 5-11 have increased 24% over 2019, while such visits by kids aged 12-17 shot up 31%. The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), as recently as its August 19 update, “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
Is it really necessary and in the best interest of Michigan families to close all high schools regardless of the different realities from district to district? For instance, the rates of COVID-19 infection in Catholic schools in Michigan’s largest cities of Detroit and Lansing are currently at a remarkably low 1.1% and 1.6% (Detroit public schools recently were near a 5% rate). Additionally, NPR complimented our own state by citing a University of Michigan medical school expert at an October briefing. His view? "The data so far are not indicating that schools are a super spreader site."
While politicians and their powerful political allies force all schools (or certain grade levels) to stay closed when evidence shows schools can be healthy and safe environments, our fundamental question is this: Why do nonpublic sector schools and their teachers have no voice at all in this matter when, in fact, the majority of them have a strong record of success, they strive to honor the protocols from the Michigan Department of Health, and have modeled a cooperative spirit throughout this process?
We realize that each nonpublic school is different, but they share many similarities in their ability to manage the current situation in safe and effective ways. It is the existence of such variables that prompts us to appeal for restoration of the freedom for nonpublic schools, and even school districts or cities for that matter, to act in the best interest of the children and families they serve in the context of their own resources, rather than be subject to statewide edicts.
Finally, we have been following a similar case regarding nonpublic Christian schools in Kentucky and recognize the recent Supreme Court case in New York that blocked the enforcement of restrictions on churches and religious gatherings. In fact, we feel that this situation in Michigan clearly has to do with freedom of religion and we are united in spirit with all religious nonpublic schools in Michigan regardless of affiliation.
Let nonpublic religious schools do what they do best: serve their wider communities with solid academics in a safe environment. Let’s quarantine politics from the compelling data that favors in-person instruction. Let’s return such decisions to the local level, which allow nonpublic schools to meet the needs of students and their families who often make great sacrifices to provide the education they believe is best for their children.
Tom Kapanka, Head of School Calvary Christian Schools, Fruitport, MI
If you go to the op-ed piece in The Detroit News and click on the comments, you'll see someone named Missy_S has my back in response to an ill-informed critic. He certainly does not know me or our board or the highly qualified "Back2School" team that wrote our protocols. Nor does he know our office staff who communicate with our local county health officials regularly. I'm not sure at the moment who "Missy_S" is, but her defense of CCS is greatly appreciated.
Monday, November 23, 2020
As we pause for a short break from the rhythm of school days, we are more eager than usual to be together again. It's been that kind of year. Family gatherings will be different this week. For some they will be especially hard, and we grieve with those who have lost loved ones in this season, but we also thank God to have known "the kind of love that all these years can't wash away."
Those words come from a new song by Ben Rector released especially for Thanksgiving 2020. As the song says, "...put your dishes in the kitchen sink and let the left-over year just wash away. 'Cause we made it through, I do believe, the longest year in history... Thank God for this Thanksgiving Day."
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Friday, October 30, 2020
CCS is following MDHHS Emergency Order Under MCL 333.2253
Below is the exact "cut and paste" text of the MDHHS "order" (highlights added for clarification)
1. The critical terms included in this order are defined as follows:
a. “School” means public and nonpublic schools.
b. “Close Contact” means any individual who was within 6 feet of an COVID-19 infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to positive specimen collection).
c. “School Associated Case” means a case of probable or confirmed COVID-19 amongst students, teachers, staff members, coaches, volunteers, or any other person who was present on school property or at a school function under circumstances that may result in the transmission or contraction of COVID-19 during their infectious period.
d. “School Community” means the set of persons who are affiliated with the school. This set may include, but is not limited to, parents, guardians, students, teachers, staff members, coaches, and volunteers.
e. “Public Notice” means providing the new and cumulative counts of School Associated Case(s) of COVID-19, including the date on which the School was notified of the new School Associated Case(s).
2. Upon learning that a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 is a School Associated Case, the local health department must, within 24 hours, notify the School to which the School Associated Case(s) relate, including the affected building or location and other information that may assist the School with carrying out its duties under this order.
3. Within 24 hours of being notified by a local health department of School Associated Case(s), the School must provide Public Notice to the School Community in a highly visible location on the School’s website that covers the impacted building or location. Schools are encouraged to provide information about measures in place at the School to prevent transmission of COVID-19, as well as measures that individuals can take to prevent transmission.
4. Public Notice does not replace the need for direct notification to persons who were, or are suspected to have been, a Close Contact of School Associated Case(s); such notice is the responsibility of the local health department.
5. Sections 2 and 3 of this order take effect at 8 AM on October 12, 2020.
Saturday, September 26, 2020
I have been a part of many committees thoughout my career in K-12 Christian education, and I can truly say it has been a pleasure to problem-solve with our CCS Back2School Committee since our work began last June. Our team consisted of veteran educators and health-care/public safety professionals with degrees in medicine, IT, health, administration, etc. Together they have more than 100 collective years in leadership at CCS.
Together we have worked hundreds of man-hours with the goal of laying the best possible footing for returning to our campus and classrooms in the fall. Individually, we have also worked hundreds of hours researching the ever-changing landscape of a now 6-month long global health emergency. We have also reviewed countless plans of other schools (public and private).
Each school district has its own challenges and assets, and we appreciate our state's invitation to take to full advantage of our school's strengths in addressing current concerns. CCS is uniquely suited to mitigate risks while maintaining educational best practices as much as possible. We are very pleased with the plan that our board will approve on August 15, 2020. Throughout the process, we have maintained unity (which does not require unanimity). Such unity is reflected in a spirit of deference, explained below. This has been the key to our functioning as a committee and school family, and it will also be the key to a great school year ahead.
Guiding Principles of the “Back2School” Committee:
1. CCS is a faith-based, non-public school whose mission does not change with changing times. Partnering with likeminded parents has always been a hallmark of CCS. A parent survey will be conducted before a final plan is shared with the CCS family (state-established deadline for posting the final plan is August 17, 2020.) [This survey was completed and processed in early August, and an outdoor, socially distances parent meeting was held in the rear courtyard of the school on August 13. Both the survey and the meeting reflected a positive spirit of unity and overwhelming support for adopting the prescribed protocols in order to be in person/on campus.]
2. Educational “best practice” will be a factor in all temporary modification of methodology necessitated by other concerns. Our goal will be to mitigate risks not to retreat from life.We all know no institution, regardless of size and resources, can guarantee to eliminate the risks involved in daily living. Just as seatbelts mitigate the risks of car occupancy while driving to school (but they cannot remove all risks of riding in a car), our protocols will mitigate the potential concerns we face in this present situation.
3. Teachers will always be informed of matters that directly affect them before the school family or public.
4. Because CCS is a school, we will use events beyond our control and responses within our control as teachable moments. We will foster a God-honoring culture of faith not fear as we proceed, keeping passages like Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that He is God.” Romans 12: 18: “As much as depends on us, live peaceably with all…” and Philippians 2:14-15: “Do all things without grumbling to be an example to a forlorn generation for by doing so we will shine like stars in the universe.” At age appropriate levels, in addition to our regular curriculum, in the current context of the first global pandemic since 2008, (or the 2009 H1N1 pandemic) our students will learn related principles of scripture, scientific method, health, hygiene, history, human nature, civic responsibility, self-governance,"can do" problem-solving, teamwork, the U.S. Constitution (as a basis for how a nation maintains order and freedoms amid conflicting cultural responses), etc.
5. CCS is an accredited member of ACSI and have received and will continue to seek counsel from ACSI and other non-public and public-school organizations as we proceed to finalize our plan. Our plan will reflect the principles taught in our curriculum, etc. Priority will be given to common sense, consideration of a full scope of pertinent data. Life involves calculated risks mitigated by knowledge, experience, shared information, and "best practice." Some mushrooms are poison, some are on pizza. As we consume food processed and prepared by others, we enjoy the calculated yet unspoken risks and rewards or our culture. Our goal is to mitigate risks in exchange for the rewards of living freely for the glory of God.
6. Fostering UNITY (but not necessarily unanimity) will be a priority. The first page of our Parent-Student Handbook has included this statement for two decades: “Because education is a partnership, its goals are more effectively met when the home and the school are confident that each party values the best interests of the other. As a practical matter, however, the school cannot be administrated by the many different homes it serves. To function agreeably as a school community, we must exercise deference (i.e. courteous, respectful compliance to guidelines which may not reflect our own preference). Order, unity, and the mission of CCS are best achieved when [we respect the ‘deference-over-preference’ principle.]”
7. The committee and administration will present a plan to reopen on the Tuesday after Labor Day. The School Board ultimately approves the policy, timeline, contingencies, etc. and decides when to present it to parents, the MDE, etc.
8. The Governor’s “roadmap” asks that each school’s plan be submitted to the MDE and the Michigan Treasury Department by August 17, 2020. The fact that each district (CCS is considered its own district) has to submit THEIR OWN PLAN implies that these plans are rightly considered “local” matters rather than one-size-fits-all approach across the state. We appreciate the wisdom of that latitude, and that the premises behind the Governor’s “road map” can be individually adapted to meet the realities of each district. It is the committee's intention to provide a prima facie plan that is acceptable to our clientele, compliant with the most reliable data within of state guidelines, and compelling to the broader CCS community beyond the families we serve. [These plans were completed and presented as intended.]
NOTE: On it’s opening page, our CCS Parent-Student Handbook says, “Though all families agree to defer to the policies herein, these pages are not intended to dictate the atmosphere of our building or the “spirit” of the day to day operation of our school.” The same holds true for the temporary protocols adopted to make our re-opening possible this fall. The presentation and implementation of “Reopening Plan” protocols will reflect the mutual respect and deference we are called to model within the Church, within our school, and within our community. On its closing page, our handbook says “Like-mindedness is best achieved through unity in essential matters, liberty in deferential matters and charity in all matters."
TOGETHER WE'LL GET THERE!
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
I could not help but think about Twain's tale as we asked the CCS Class of 2021 to help us with an important project not unlike the fictional account from Hannibal, Missouri, nearly a hundred and fifty years ago.
For more than 20 years, "community service" hours have been a graduation requirement at CCS (as they are at many Christian colleges). The board's purpose in this requirement is to foster a spirit of service that we hope plays out in adulthood as our graduates become active members of their churches and communities. During the Covid-19 state restrictions, community service hours are more difficult to achieve. (Sadly, the beach clean-up option of the past has eroded away.)
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Sunday, June 21, 2020
It takes the hottest tears
to melt the coldest pain.
The salt that drips to trembling lips
is savored not in vain.
For that same taste of sorrow
that blurs the eyes with grief
stows a foretaste of tomorrow
and hope of sweet relief.
Perhaps it's when our weeping falls
like rain upon our face
our aching, outstretched arms
are fit to feel His warm embrace.(C) 2-1-2021
Saturday, June 20, 2020
The new term of course is “COVID-19,” and it was paired with a much older word: quarantine (derived from the Latin word for forty (i.e. 40 days). Unlike its historic use, however, this time quarantine applied to the healthy (not just the sick). Those not infected were asked to isolate themselves. They called it “socialdistancing.”
In mid-March, all schools and businesses deemed “non-essential” were closed. (Churches were lumped into the non-essential group.) We were told that a 3-week quarantine to “flatten the curve” would help hospitals face the coming onslaught of a global pandemic. We all did our part. Curve was flattened. Onslaught averted. And yet the 3 weeks became 3 months then four and counting. A funny thing happened on the way back to normal.