The word “unprecedented” has probably been uttered more in the past year than in the 50 years prior combined. Certainly, the challenges faced by the entire world fit the term well. A year later, however, from the perspective of a member of the board and the medical advisory committee, some of the unexpected positives have been unprecedented as well.
Last March, when our schools transferred entirely online, we could never have imagined the creativity and outside-the-box thinking that would allow us to return back to face- to-face learning, with classrooms and batei midrash full of happy, active students (even if their smiles lie hidden beneath masks).
Teachers took on the challenge of planning and executing remote and classroom learning at the same time, often without knowing from week to week which would be in place. School administrators figured out space plans, attendance plans, daily schedules and myriad other challenges, without sacrificing vital curriculum points. Parents remained flexible, trusting that schools were doing the best that they could under difficult circumstances.
The biggest troopers of all have been the students. They have accepted the stresses, the differences and the losses, and made the best of it. Watching them continue to learn and grow, even as they are surrounded by so many restrictions, has reinforced the reason for participating in day school lay leadership in the first place—the privilege of having a seat at the planning table for the Jewish future.
Indeed, while the time requirements, stress, energy expenditure and overall investment of participating in day school leadership has increased commensurate with the challenges of the past year, in a strange way, so has the satisfaction. Our meetings go longer, particularly the medical discussions of ways to return to “normal,” but they are full of tangible accomplishments. The partnership with administrators and teachers is more palpable. The learning (trial by fire, trial and error) is constant. After all, nothing makes one realize how much talent there is in a group like a school board or medical committee as much as the frequent call for weighty decisions necessitated by the Covid pandemic.
Perhaps because the effects of our decision- making this year have been so immediate, board and committee leadership during the pandemic seems to provide a constant reminder of “what it’s all about.” Throughout, our school’s board and medical committee have reverted to one thought whenever things get challenging or confusing. As long as we remain focused on doing what’s right by our students, their families and their futures—our people’s future—things will generally come out right.