COVID-19 Diaries: Taking Action in North CarolinaMarch 20, 2020
When Principal Meghan LeFevers (NC ’17) realized that COVID-19 was about to land with a thud on Tryon Elementary School in Bessemer City, she and her staff swung into action to make sure families’ needs would be met.
Last week, what appeared to be a small virus has now quickly become a life alerting giant in our nation. As I watched COVID-19 unfold, I quickly understood that my school community would be impacted in a monumental way.
Crisis often evokes drastic emotional responses from most people; however, those on the front lines of the crisis often lack that option. I found myself wanting to do everything for everyone until my Professional Learning Network (PLN) came to the rescue.
As I scrolled through Facebook, I noticed a post by Allyson Apsey, the principal of Quincy Elementary in Michigan’s Zeeland Public Schools. She shared a tool that directly changed our school response plan in a few clicks. Allyson had created a form to check in with her community to ensure they knew how to get assistance and how her school could best assist their community.
I was all in! I never thought a chance meeting a few years ago at the National Principals Conference would equip my team to meet so many needs and truly become a beacon of public servitude during a time of unprecedented uncertainty. The form was simple and could be completed in minutes. The Tryon Elementary staff, full of public servants, immediately jumped on board.
Making our action plan
We created a list of students to check on every few days. Each of us took a responsibility listed on the form. For example, our content teacher sent families struggling with social isolation fun games and resources. Students struggling emotionally could request a call from their teacher, counselor, school-based therapist or school psychologist. Families could request a call from the nurse if someone in their home was sick and they needed advice or community resources. Families could request assistance with food or supplies, allowing our social worker and school counselor to respond in minutes. Or they could simply let us know that their family was doing great!
Within three days, we have served more than 50 families using this form. We have passed out numerous food bags, hygiene products and books. We place all items for families on a bench in our front entrance to practice social isolation. Most importantly, our families know that we appreciate the opportunity to serve our community.
Personal strength often grows in a crisis. As we’ve dealt with this pandemic, I have been reminded of a few great lessons.
- You can only control what you can control. Focus your time, energy and service on the things you can safely address.
- No one can fight this alone. Teachers need each other and a strong leader to focus their talents into service, not fear and speculation. Principals also need a strong PLN to lean on during these times. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that without Allyson Apsey being in my PLN, my school would not have been able to respond as well as we have. Principals, it is time to connect in a real way!
- This is truly a time for our school to be a beacon of hope, knowledge, continuity, love and care in our communities. We must CHOOSE to take that approach.
- Each teacher and leader currently caring for children has the awesome opportunity to be the ever-present continuity that our students need. Contact your families by email, phone or letter and tell them that you truly care.
- Assemble your team, tell them exactly what strengths and talents they can bring to this particular crisis response, and then let the system work.
I hope that you will learn, grow and thrive during this time of uncertainty. The children of our nation need it and we are ready to answer that call.
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