March 10, 2021
Dear Columbus Academy Families,
When our family was just starting out, one of our favorite activities was reading the “wordless” book Zoom by Istvan Banyai. We would gasp as the pictures within pictures kept us guessing about whether the ship on one page was going to be as large as an ocean liner or as small as a postage stamp on the next as the story revealed itself in scope and sequence. The sense of never knowing exactly where you were in terms of scale was the great fun of turning every page.
A year ago this Friday, March 12th, Columbus Academy entered our own fictional reality when Governor DeWine announced that all K-12 schools would be closed as a result of COVID-19. I wrote to you explaining that we would return to campus sometime after April 3rd; an idea that quickly appeared to be a stamp-sized plan for a Titanic-sized dilemma as we navigated over the next 360+ days with online learning, hybrid school, health checks, pod creations, zoom conferences, tent classrooms and all the other oddities that this year has brought us.
The scope of hosting school this year has been daunting and expensive in terms of student isolation, teacher exhaustion and family disruption even as we worked through questions of how to host assemblies, junior speeches, wax museums, football games and band concerts.
I wish, though, that all of you could have been here to experience today. On the cusp of Spring Break, having crossed the threshold (Tuesday) of the first day without a single COVID-19 case since the start of school, our campus is busy and filled with students now, and faculty are happily inoculated from the most vicious repercussions of the disease. There are still masks, some lunches away from the dining hall and social distancing, but even the weather has thrown us a few 60-degree days to help with our sense that our darkest days of being a “virtual community” as opposed to an actual, present, tactile and empathetic community are coming to a close.
Things just feel different around here now that spring has arrived. Classes are louder – pouring out into the open campus spaces with students laughing and running and throwing frisbees the way they should as they create balance between school work and social lives. The seniors look like students ready to emancipate themselves from high school while they cling to the rituals of playing together in the quadrangle and bantering with teachers they aren’t entirely ready yet to leave.
It feels like we are getting the life of school back, step by step, after a very long year. And as we live into that readaptation of sorts, we will begin to gain deep perspective on how these past many months have changed us in the ways we will be together as an entire community in the year ahead.
The last pages of Zoom have images telescoping out past the earth making it the size of a stamp, capturing the sense of “oneness” astronauts describe as a life-changing shift of perception the first time they see the earth from space with no national boundaries and no conflicts, just as one planet.
COVID-19 has issued us a challenge far beyond how to do school in a pandemic. We now need to begin to have school all together again. From one look at the campus today, if we let the students be our guides, we are up to the task.