September 10, 2020
by Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School
“All hands on deck,” barked my father when he wanted to get our attention in an emergency. Perhaps it was his years in the Navy, (although his service was on an airplane, not a ship!) but it was a frequently used phrase in our household growing up. We knew it was an imperative that necessitated that we immediately drop anything we were doing to help out in whatever way was required. As most of us do, we eventually become our parents, and I find myself using that same phrase, especially these days.
“All hands on deck” is one aspect of our COVID-19 reality. With our focus on the health and safety of our community and prioritizing students being on campus as much as possible, there is a fluidity of new and additional roles and responsibilities for faculty and staff. For example, because Lower School students are eating lunch in classrooms and their teachers need their own lunch break, I can add Lower School recess supervisor to my resume.
Overall, our non-teaching staff in general has stepped into a multiplicity of roles throughout the day so that teachers can focus their time and energy in the classroom, including recess duty, helping clean desks after lunch, and assisting with arrival and dismissal times. Teachers are coming to school earlier and staying later so that we might stagger arrival and dismissal times to reduce density on hallways. As you well know, parents too are taking on additional responsibilities, such as performing health screenings in the morning and evenings, tending to extra and new processes, and preparing your children for school with new supply needs. Our students are stepping up as well as they help implement our cleaning protocols in their personal spaces.
Throughout the school year, it is very likely you will become aware of a number of substitute teachers in classrooms—some for short periods of time, some for longer. As we move through both the pandemic and flu season, we are putting the health and safety of our students, teachers, and staff at the forefront. If someone is not feeling well, we are encouraging that person to stay home and monitor their symptoms. Additionally, some employees have been granted an accommodation to teach remotely and we have teaching assistants monitoring the students who are on campus. We are fortunate to have assembled a top-notch cadre of substitute teachers to step in when needed. These individuals have been trained in our health and safety protocols and have gone through our rigorous screening procedures.
Successfully navigating this pandemic certainly qualifies for an “All hands on deck” approach. I am incredibly grateful for, and proud of, the MPA faculty and staff for coming together with a can-do spirit to overcome the challenges of education in our new reality. The trust and partnership of parents continues to inspire me and empowers teachers and staff to persevere. The strength of the MPA community is evident more than ever and I’m sure my dad would be proud of how we have rallied together to meet the needs of our students in this time of crisis.