It has certainly been difficult to escape talk of the Coronavirus, even from the National Association of Independent Schools’ annual conference last week in Philadelphia, where I joined hundreds of school heads, administrators, and faculty to gain insights and inspiration, and strengthen and build connections in our community.
Of course, we want to be cautious and prudent, but we also want to hue closely to the facts, rather than allowing the 24/7 news cycle to cause anxiety and alarm. Here at Turning Point, I am grateful for a truly stellar team of administrators who are working diligently behind the scenes to assure our community remains as strong as always, while also planning for any possible developments the future may bring. To that end, please see the end of this blog entry for specifics on our continued efforts to ensure the health and safety of our community.
If we, as adults, are feeling a bit inundated by the swiftly changing influx of information related to COVID-19, certainly our children are also picking up on the news. Children are perceptive. Younger children may not be privy to details, yet when they see upset parents, they nonetheless pick up on general feelings of concern. Older children who do understand what they hear on the news are likely discussing this with each other as a way of processing. And while adults have the wisdom and experience to filter the news for importance and accuracy, our children are still learning these skills, so may be more susceptible to feeling fear or repeating inaccuracies.
As parents, I do think we should talk with our children about what’s going on, in age-appropriate ways. This article by Common Sense Media offers some wonderful general guidelines on how to speak with children about what they see and hear on the news. Likewise, this piece on “Helping Children Cope with Frightening News” by the Child Mind Institute focuses on what parents can do to aid scared kids in processing grief and fear in a healthy way.
Regarding Coronavirus specifically, below are two wonderful resources that will help you frame a healthy conversation. One is a kid-friendly comic from NPR, and the other is a BrainPop video (our teachers use Brain Pop quite frequently in the classroom). Both are straight-forward, matter of fact, and non-anxious; they model how we should act and may even make you feel better. The bottom line is that you should let your child know that there are many people who are looking to protect her, and that it’s not her job to worry.
As the comic reminds us, please remember and reiterate with your children that anyone can get this virus. It doesn’t matter where you come from or where our family comes from. Just because someone looks or talks differently than you doesn’t mean they are at a higher risk or getting COVID-19 or of spreading it.
A quickly spreading illness certainly amplifies our fears of the unknown, of being “invaded” by outside forces. In this case, the COVID-19’s apparent genesis in China may reemerge polarities between the “exotic” East that has spread its disease to the “civilized” West. Often, we experience disease as “polluting” our bodies, and this creates a divide between those who are ill and the general population. These biases, amplified by fear, can obscure the facts if we are not careful to notice and acknowledge our worries.
We do not want to make assumptions about who might or might not be sick; xenophobia is the last thing we want our children to experience or reinforce.
We just learned from Dr. Gay that we need to be aware of the experiences that people bring to their interactions. No one in our community should feel concerned about how they will be perceived if they sniffle or sneeze in public. So, let’s put our awareness into action by actively practicing empathy, kindness, and respect in all our interactions.
Head of School
What We Know
The COVID-19 situation is fluid, and requires us to be vigilant, measured, and flexible as we respond to direction by health experts and other authorities. Please make note of the following agencies, who update their websites regularly with evolving news on Coronavirus. I encourage you to go right to these sources for updates rather than relying on traditional or social media sources:
What We Can Do Now
Currently, our response at Turning Point is focused on general illness prevention. The flu and common cold remain a more likely risk to our community health currently, so dedication to good hygiene and virus prevention practices are vital. To that end, we ask all our community members to continue following CDC-recommended best practices for overall health during cold and flu season, including:
- Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice).
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick. The CDC recommends that individuals remain at home for at least 24 hours after you a fever or signs of a fever (chills, feeling warm, flushed appearance) have abated.
- Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue, then immediately discard in the trash. If a tissue is unavailable, practice “vampire sneezing.” And whenever you cough or sneeze, wash your hands immediately afterward.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Our facilities staff and overnight cleaning crew always meet the highest standards of cleaning and disinfecting, and we have asked them to be particularly vigilant during this time.
- It is not too late to get a flu shot. This year, a wide majority of Turning Point faculty and staff availed themselves of the opportunity to receive a free flu shot from the school or received a flu shot on their own from a health provider.
- Middle School Spring Trips: Our Grade 8 Spring Trip, originally planned for Italy, has been changed to Panama. While we regret that Italy is no longer on our itinerary, we are very excited about the opportunities available to our Grade 8 students in Panama and look forward to sharing more soon. At this time, we are monitoring CDC travel advisories related to our other Spring Trips and will keep families appraised on any new developments.
- Student Learning: The CDC has advised that schools and businesses be prepared in case those organizations need to limit interaction between large gatherings of people in the interest of public health, Our administrative, technology, and program team is meeting regularly and will be prepared to leverage our existing tools in order to continue student learning in the event of a prolonged school closing.
- Spring Break Travel: Families who plan to travel over Spring Break should monitor alerts from the CDC here and follow appropriate safety precautions while traveling and after you return.
Thank you, as always, for your partnership and understanding as we work together to ensure the health, safety, and inclusion of everyone in our community. We will, of course, continue to share updates with you as needed.