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2020.03.13 -- COVID-19 Update

March 13, 2020
By Jef Fowler, Head of School

Dear Veritas Families, Students, Faculty, and Staff --

First, thank you for all of the calm and understanding with my decision to continue classes today in spite of our general policy of following the lead of AISD when it comes to determining school closures, since that practice is primarily for weather-related decisions. At Veritas, policy guides our decisions--and we do make every effort to consistently follow policy as we've become a larger and more complex organization--but we always leave room for discretion in order to call an audible and make exceptions, which I did early this morning after consulting with others in our administration and board and after watching the City's press conference at 6 a.m. (And though I wasn't up at 4:30 a.m. to learn of AISD's decision, my assistant Joanna Helflin was--in spite of her latest round of chemotherapy yesterday!--and she got me busy right away. Thank you, Joanna!)

It is increasingly unlikely that we will be able to return to campus on the Monday morning immediately following our Spring Break (March 23rd), so we are making plans to conduct school-at-home for all grade levels beginning that week. Details will follow, likely just before March 23rd so that we are relying on the most current information at that time. But what you can do in the interim is make sure that you have all the textbooks, supplies, materials, and equipment (computers and smartphones) that you will need to either deliver at-home lessons or to access online courses with classroom teachers delivering instruction. In regards to athletics and extra-curricular activities, both TAPPS and CAPPS (our SR and SL athletic/fine arts/academic leagues) have immediately suspended all competitions at least until April 13th. Look for an email from our Athletic Director sometime next week concerning decisions on practice schedules. Also PSIA, our SL academic league, has canceled all of its competitions for the spring. 

At this time, we are expecting at-home learning to follow our normal daily bell schedule, but that may change as our Academic Team (consisting of school heads, academic deans, and department heads) work with our Registrar and tech resources to develop the detailed procedures. Ultimately, some combination of streaming and recorded presentations may be used in order to minimize the simultaneous demands on our tech devices. Also, I would expect at-home learning for the GS to look significantly different than for the SLR since we will want to minimize the time that our youngest students are kept in front of screens. Again, all these details will be developed and communicated in about a week or so.

Unlike many other schools, we are not presently making a decision to discontinue in-person classes for the rest of the semester. To the contrary, we are eager to get back together again as soon as possible, but without subjecting anyone to undue risk. So we will continue to adapt our plans and make informed decisions based on the facts available at the time. We intend to take it a week at a time, making a decision each Wednesday for the following week in order to give our teachers time to plan.

Given the salty type of pioneering spirits who choose to send their kids to a school like Veritas, I was not at all surprised at this morning's calm reaction to the news that COVID-19 is now in our city. Let's continue to remain positive, exercising reasonable precautions but also living with--and displaying for others--a confidence that all will be well. If normal apprehension and anxiety begins to become fear in you, then refer to the "Fear Not..." blurb at the end of Wednesday's memo and begin talking to God and reading scripture to hear Him talking back to you.

To help maintain perspective, here's a quote (emphasis added) from C.S. Lewis when the world was faced with a different existential threat:

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. 

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

Yesterday, I told Starrla that I feared that many more lives will be taken by the economic fallout resulting from our collective reaction to this crisis than from the virus itself. That's not to minimize the threat of this coronavirus, because it is novel and far deadlier than the seasonal influenza strands that kill so many each year; but as businesses fight to stay open, hope becomes easily lost, and people become disheartened. So please think and pray about any friends or neighbors you should reach out to whose businesses, places of employment, or income sources are threatened by this virus and the efforts to contain it. Be a source of encouragement, hope, and help to them.

As the English encouraged each other daily as they were being firebombed, let's "Keep calm and carry on." For Christians, this should be easier than for others since our ultimate source of safety, security, and comfort is not a controlled environment (which is illusory, more fiction than fact) but a real, ever present, and accessible God whose promises are true and unchanging. Let's believe, and then act accordingly.


Jef Fowler
Head of School


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