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2020.03.24--What's Ahead

March 24, 2020
By Jef Fowler, Head of School

Good Evening, Veritas!

Anticipating today’s shelter-in-place order, we began shutting down our campus over the weekend, allowing faculty and staff to retrieve their remaining resources Sunday and yesterday. Our school offices and campus are now closed until further notice...and with the local health authority’s recommendation this afternoon that all private schools in Austin remain closed through the spring semester, that could be awhile; however, we’re hoping to be able to resume classes on campus soon after Easter in mid-April. If it is then permissible and advisable, we’ll try to do it.

Teachers, staff, and administrators are collaborating remotely to finish setting up the infrastructure and conduct training for Virtual Veritas, with student and parent training slated for Th/Fri during the soft launch of this program. Next Mon, Mar 30, will represent the first full school day of remote learning.

Before resuming classes, I want to set your minds at ease and encourage you with this ambition: it is not our goal to replicate the classroom experience in your homes. That’s just way too much to expect or attempt to push onto parents and students. It’s not possible, and it’s not even desired. Instead, we want to take this incredibly unique─hopefully once in a lifetime─experience to put into practice what we preach at Veritas, namely that adaptability is one of our aims and that education is so much more than academic content. Truly. 

We desire for this virtual version of Veritas in your homes to be a source of comfort and routine, an anchor of “normalcy,” of sorts, that serves to put students’ minds on something other than themselves and their temporary plight, a structure around which to organize our new normal for a season, and upon which we can explore, experiment with, and experience new things that our previously busy lifestyles didn’t afford us. The last thing I want is for Virtual Veritas to choke out this opportunity for a different, wholly engaging form of education to be enjoyed by our kids in this season of their lives. 

So, I’ve asked our school heads to work with our teachers to target the delivery of only the most core elements of each class, and to do so in such a way that does not exasperate students or overwhelm co-teachers. Therefore, in the first week of online classes, we will attempt to deliver only a fraction of what would be covered in a typical class, rising gradually each week to eventually cover a larger portion of what is normally covered in our regular classroom environment. This will vary by subject, with math and foreign languages starting with a greater percentage of their usual content, and other subjects compensating with far less content covered initially.

Likewise, the structure of our school-at-home day routines will vary by grade level, with the lower grades (GS) being less structured─allowing more flexibility for the co-teacher to direct the day─and the highest grades (SR) being more structured─abiding by the bell schedule─as the students are operating more independently and, therefore, needing that structure to help guide/direct their focus and efforts. The middle grades (SL) will bridge the gap between GS and SR by attempting to abide by the schedule as much as possible. Any Google Hangout will be scheduled during class time, and students will be encouraged to do other work during their typical school day schedule.

This modest ramp-up is intended to both ease anxiety and absorb inefficiencies as we aIl figure this out together. But even after we’ve fully ramped up, there should be much more time available in a school day for our students to pursue some broader forms of education, be it the underappreciated domestic arts (hello laundry room, ironing board, kitchen stove, lawn mower and yard tools), the creative arts (drawing/painting, journaling, video production), the personal disciplines (prayer, Bible study, contemplation), or the simply being useful to our broader community by figuring out ways to serve our neighbors (from next door to citywide).

Hopefully, you’ve stocked the pantry and the toolshed for the next few weeks, and while awaiting instructions from our school heads and teachers, you’ve already begun working on your HOS Homework assignments for the week...which are all about nonacademic education. And since I don’t anticipate sending a Wednesday Memo tomorrow─given this missive and all the academic info that will go out later in the week─here’s a preview of the HOS Homework for parents next week: begin sharing the history, the stories, of your family, specifically focusing on hard times that your ancestors (and you) endured and survived. Starrla’s family and mine were both farmers/ranchers in western Oklahoma through the dust bowl, and the story of what her grandparents endured in a single year following those days and the second great war has been the source of much grit in us, behind only the promises of God in scripture that we clung to growing up and throughout our adult lives. When feeling pressed upon on all sides, one of us will simply whisper “1946,” and perspective is instantly restored. 

Also, I still vividly remember the fervent, effectual prayers of my family around our kitchen table in the 70’s, and then witnessing with my own eyes the faithfulness of God in answering those prayers and supplying our needs (and so much more than we ever imagined!). My faith became real in those hard times, and it’s persisted all these decades later. Let’s not rob our children of this opportunity to walk with us in experiencing hardship and seeing us, as their parents, respond by humbling ourselves, praying, seeking God’s face, and standing on His promises for life, healing, provision, and more than we can imagine.

“When I… send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  II Chron 7:13-14

We all know that we can’t control what happens to us, only how we respond to it. So let’s invite our kids into this (in ways appropriate to their age/maturity) and show them how Christ has taught us to live, with eyes first on Him and then on others, and boldly professing the hope to which we cling.

Lastly, I know that there are a great many concerns about next steps at Veritas, especially related to next year’s course requests and tuition billing that will be sent on Friday, all of our upcoming events, etc. In one of my coming communications to parents, I’ll start addressing those issues; but until then we are endeavoring to proceed as usual, knowing that changes may be coming, yet not knowing exactly what those changes will be. However, we do know that we’re all in this together, and doing everything we can to keep us all together is a top priority. So, again, please pray for our school community and its leadership as we very much need God’s wisdom and favor.

Onward!

-Jef

 

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