Dear MPH Community,

This stinks! It stinks for all of us. It stinks for our students. It stinks for our parents. It stinks for all of my colleagues, who, like me, miss being together and with our students. There, I’ve said it. And we’re certainly not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading around the world, infecting millions of people, thousands of whom have succumbed to the virus. And as countries and communities seek to mitigate its spread with a range of responses, the full economic impact on individuals, families, businesses, and communities is as yet unknown. What seems clear already, however, is that it will be profound and catastrophic for many.

This would never be my preferred way of beginning any message to our community, but I believe it’s important to acknowledge the reality of our shared experience — as an MPH community; as citizens of our county, state, and country; and, indeed, as fellow human beings on this planet. We’re experiencing something that is very hard, and it seems that in just these few recent months we’ve experienced a lifetime of sadness, grief, and loss. We yearn to move on to better days, and we will — just not right away.

In the meantime, as individuals and families, we find ways to cope, to stay healthy, and to support one another. We rely on our personal values to guide us as we adapt, improvise, reimagine, and attempt to make the best of challenges that continue to unfold. And that is exactly what we are doing at MPH as well. We are trying to make the best of the situation — staying nimble and adaptive as we educate and support our students as well as we can, while always prioritizing the health and well-being of each — and of all members of our community. As we continue to adapt and improvise, I am reassured by this bit of Charles Darwin’s wisdom: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

With less than a month remaining in the school year, there are any number of annual and culminating events, programs, and experiences that are being reimagined. As I was leaving my office just last night, three of my colleagues had come together to create an alternative version of the Washington, D.C., fieldtrip for their students. Planning for our traditional Red and White Day is well underway and taking on new and creative twists. Our Multicultural Festival will take place at the end of the month, albeit using a different format. However, the most sensitive and challenging consideration will be Commencement. There has been a great deal of time, thought, and consideration to how we can best honor and celebrate the Class of 2020 in ways that feel highly personal and memorable for members of the senior class and their families. 

And as we focus on making these final weeks the best possible for our students, please know that many of my colleagues are also engaged in responsible and thoughtful planning for the future. For example, there are task forces meeting now to consider and determine health protocols and to envision what teaching and learning looks like at MPH in 2020-2021. While we work with the assumption that we’ll begin next year, as we always have, with classes conducted on campus, we feel that it is also likely there will be times when distance learning will be necessary for health and safety reasons. Our goal is to educate our students effectively no matter the format we use, and we believe our ability to pivot from one format to another, seamlessly, will be a strength for our school. While impossible to know exactly what the future looks like, I can assure you that as we move through our planning and decision-making process at MPH, we will do so with our mission and core values informing us at every turn.

Embracing these daunting challenges is what prevents them from paralyzing us. In meeting them head-on, we model for our students — in real time and with actual circumstances — all of the valuable life skills that we want them to learn. This can feel risky and vulnerable, but it’s like skillfully steering a car on the ice: turning into the skid — meeting the challenge — is the way to make it to safety.  

As we press forward, let us also seek out the many important lessons we can be learning from the current global situation. Imagine ourselves looking back on this time from the future: How did we choose to proceed? What did we prioritize? How did we care for our family, our communities, our planet?

We have an opportunity now to make our future selves proud. If you have not yet seen this short and relevant video that has been circulating on the Internet, I promise it’s well worth four minutes of your time. I believe that the insight we are gaining now will become, in future years, the hindsight that will make us proud — proud of how we are choosing to proceed in the present moment with resourcefulness and resilience, compassion and care.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” ~Kahlil Gibran

Warmly,
Dave McCusker
Head of School