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.)