No. I have never seen anything like this, this being the novel coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19. I have never seen anything that has resulted in so many changes over such a short period of time on such a large scale. The World Trade Center attack on 9/11 comes the closest. I recall back when that happened air travel was shut down shortly after, and some of that same “emotion buying” took place. However, that was a lot different from what we are experiencing right now.
Two weeks ago, Friday the 6th to be exact, I was driving south out of Waterloo on my way to Austin, Texas to attend the SXSWEDU conference. Each year I try to attend a national conference and this was the first time I had planned to attend this one. I was truly excited because this one was a lot different than any other I had attended, and I was planning to stay with a good friend who lives in Austin. I had plans for stops on the way down and trip back, and my friend was putting together a list of famous BBQ joints we were going to check out. I don’t know if it classified as a “dream trip” because a large part of is was a work trip, but I was really looking forward to it. Then I got this text just south of Hudson from a friend in Minneapolis: SXSW cancelled. What!?!?
That was 14 days ago that I pulled over in Traer, got on the phone and confirmed that yes, the mayor of Austin, Texas shut down the entire SXSW education conference and festival. At that point there were four people identified with the virus in Texas and less than ten in Iowa. I think most people did not realize what was going to come, or at least refused to believe what was being said about it. However, that was a punch in the gut to me. At that point it became very obvious that this was going to become a big deal. If the city of Austin, Texas was shutting down a three week long evert that has been going on for 34 years and in essence throwing away millions and millions of dollars that would be pumped into its local economy, this was a big deal.
When I came into the high school building last Monday morning, my mind was on what impact this was going to have on school and our students. I have been able to get a few other things done, but I would guess that at least 70% of my time and focus has been on the coronavirus. I cannot count the number of conversations Mr. Willhite and I have had, as well as with other administrators. Regular communication has taken place with Jessica Wegner from public health. We have made plans for this and plans for that, and then things change. Until last Thursday night the 8th graders were still going on their trip to Washington, DC. On that Friday the travel company for our music trip up to Minneapolis recommended we cancel. Some state organizations, the music and speech associations, have proactively cancelled contests. Others, the IHSAA and IGHSAU, have not.
This past Sunday night I got a call that I strangely expected. The Governor was shutting down schools for four weeks. I now know what crisis mode is. I lost track of the meetings we have had online with various groups. The experience of working in a bureaucracy where every one is trying to come up with answers to questions, yet having to wait on guidance from those above you is painful. Acknowledging that in many ways we are in a war, and having to deal with life in a whole different way than what we were living two weeks ago. On Wednesday the stress got to me. I could feel it in my body and I had to get away from what our administrative team had been so focused on. We had basically been holed up in the “war room” in the superintendent’s office and I had to get out. Fresh air, a good walk, and a little to eat got me back to where I needed to be.
How life has changed in two weeks.