This message is addressed to families with children and youth and those who care about them.
We have reached a point of frustration with this pandemic that is about to be compounded by the myriad of issues surrounding the opening of school. Our kids are anxious about what that is going to look like. Parents are concerned not only for their safety if they return in person, but also for the challenges raised if they participate in a virtual classroom. Either way, many parents will have to make a choice between family and employment, sooner or later.
Then, there are the people who make school happen – the teachers, counselors, administrators, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, and others without whom schools in normal conditions would simply stop working. They, too, risk exposure to the Coronavirus if the students return to the campus. What happens to a classroom of students when the teacher tests positive or a busload of students when a driver tests positive? Do they all go into quarantine at home? Who looks after them? A dozen other questions come to mind, but I’ll stop there.
Several weeks ago, St. Martin’s made the painful decision not to reopen our school. The change in student/teacher ratio, the added sanitation protocols, announcements of free public school early childhood programs in the area, no liability coverage for COVID-19-related incidents, a bleak financial outlook, along with the aforementioned questions, presented a perfect storm of obstacles. We could not see a way to open the school and safeguard the health and well-being of our kids and our teachers.
All that said, I do understand the difficult decisions public and other independent schools are facing. The decisions their leaders must make and the decisions parents and families must make are daunting. Like you, I wish I knew the right answer. But I don’t.
What I do know is this:
- The people of St. Martin's will not shame parents for whatever difficult decisions they make.
- The people of St. Martin's will stand by our parents, pray with you, and do whatever we can to help you uphold what you think is best for your children and youth.
- The people of St. Martin's will remain steadfast in offering an abundance of faith, hope, and love to parents and families.
- When this is over – and it will eventually end – the people of St. Martin's will be here for you and rejoice to see your faces reflecting the light of God’s countenance, the God who always sees us through both the bad times and the good times. Maybe that is actually the light at the end of this tunnel!
I remind you of St. Paul’s words, which we read last Sunday, in the hope that you will let them resonate in your heart and mind during this time when all these things conspire against us and seem so overwhelming:
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?...Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28, 31, 35, 37-39)
May this message be a great big virtual hug for our families with children and youth. We love you!
The Very Reverend Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church