Dear Pembroke Hill Community,
After hearing Gov. Mike Parson’s announcement closing Missouri public schools for the rest of the school year and discussing this with area private and parochial school administrators, we have decided that we will not return to campus this semester and will continue virtual learning for the remainder of the school year. While I know we had all hoped to be back together this spring, I believe this is the most prudent course of action to keep our school community healthy and safe.
This new development is not the outcome any of us wanted, and it will require everyone’s best efforts to continue to support our children through the rest of the year. I have recently read several articles that explored how COVID-19 is causing us to re-evaluate what is really important - family, health, safety and connecting with others. The authors suggest we use this time to help our children enhance their abilities in reading, problem-solving and communication along with social-emotional areas such as resilience, collaboration, flexibility and positive attitudes. I think, in the long run, these skills and attributes will be the most valuable lessons we can teach our children during this unsettling time.
Here are links to two articles that I found very helpful and thought you might, too. The first one is from Dr. Denise Pope, co-founder of Challenge Success, and the second was published in the Charlotte Observer.
My message to our students, which we will deliver to them, is this: We will find additional ways to be together remotely. We will create events that celebrate you - especially seniors, eighth graders, fifth graders and prekindergarten students. We will find ways to be together in person as soon as it is safe, and we will get through this as one school community.
To parents, I want you to know that I have an enormous amount of empathy for what you are going through during this time. I know Stay at Home orders and online schooling have, at times, been difficult for us, as parents, as we figure out how to balance all aspects of our lives - work commitments, children’s educational activities, family relationships and the need for some semblance of what our lives were like several months ago. At least this has been my experience within my own family. While Candace and I are enjoying more time with our children, we are having to make adjustments as we seek to re-calibrate to our new normal.
As for our teachers, administrators and staff - I know you have been working tirelessly as you quickly transitioned to online instruction while making your students’ educational experiences positive and fulfilling our promise that every child is known, cared for and valued. Your efforts have been commendable and are very much appreciated.
In addition to the Governor’s message yesterday, the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) also announced that all MSHSAA-sponsored spring sports and activities were cancelled for the remainder of the school year. As a school, we have been discussing and strategizing how we can re-imagine or reschedule our treasured milestone events and traditions - graduation, May Day, fifth grade graduation, eighth grade graduation, Showcase and the Bridging Ceremony. As these decisions are made, we will keep you informed.
Looking back on our second week of virtual learning, I want to say how impressed I am with our school community for taking on this new challenge in such supportive and optimistic ways. Your dedication to Pembroke Hill has been so impressive, and we are grateful.
Although I am pleased with the design and implementation of our online instruction program, we know there have been some challenges. Last Friday, we sent out our first survey to check in with our community and to help identify areas where we can make enhancements. Thank you to everyone who completed the survey. We will send another one at the end of next week.
The principals and I have reviewed the feedback, identified themes, and now they are working with their faculties to make adjustments where they can, as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. When we started preparing for virtual learning prior to Spring Break, we believed we were planning for a short period of time - approximately two weeks. Obviously that time frame has changed. We are taking what we’ve learned from the first 10 days of online instruction, along with your input, and evaluating our processes - what has gone well and what can be improved.
While students need to be engaged with classmates and teachers during instruction times, I don’t want us to lose sight of our sense of humanity. Therefore, I have asked the principals to identify ways to enhance our students’ opportunities to connect with each other and with their teachers to just talk - about how they are feeling, what fun things they’ve been doing and how they are staying in touch with family and friends. The reality is that yes, content is important, but what is absolutely essential is how we help our students manage the emotional and social ramifications of being away from school and from each other.
I remain grateful for our Trustees who have been wonderful partners with our administrative team and with me. I appreciate their support and willingness to share their perspectives on the issues we are facing.
On that note, I want to inform you that under president Anne Dema’s leadership, the Board of Trustees has established task forces to help guide us through the potential financial impacts of COVID-19 on Pembroke Hill and our families and the construction project on the Ward Parkway Campus. The financial task force will discuss, among other topics, our intent to offer a credit to families for some variable costs that the school will not incur because of the campuses being closed.
The task forces are beginning their work immediately and will make recommendations to the Board and to me in the coming weeks. Task force members include current Trustees and administrators as well as individuals from the Kansas City community who have expertise in specific fields. Thank you to these individuals who are giving us their time and knowledge so we are able to make the very best decisions for our community and Pembroke Hill.
I have really enjoyed all the videos, photos and notes you are sharing with me. Keep them coming; this is one way to help us stay connected with each other.
As we close out another week of online learning, I am more proud than ever of Pembroke Hill and our community. I have said this before, but I am amazed by what our faculty and administrators have done in a short amount of time. Also, our students have been amazing. They have taken ownership of their learning and, from what I have been told, progressing well during this uncertain time.
I wish all of families safety and good health and especially your children. We miss them and care about their well-being, their abilities to adapt and their educational journeys.
As a way to show our support for all of our students, we are joining other schools throughout the state tonight and turning on the lights on the stadium and in Centennial Hall at 8:20 p.m. (The time, 8:20 p.m., is 20:20 in military time.) The lights will stay on for 20 minutes and 20 seconds.
If we can offer any additional support to your children during this period of isolation, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, your principal or counselor.
Thank you again for your support and your patience.