Today, Monday, March 16, 2020 is the first day of what the high schoolers are calling Corona Break. At the end of what was a tough week both personally and professionally- with the week beginning with a time change, a full moon, Mercury in retrograde, and ending in Friday the 13th- the decision was made to close schools on the advice of the Los Angeles County Office of Education and the Department of Public Health. Being a member of our local school board, as well as a parent in our district, I can attest to the fact that this was not a decision that we took lightly. Given the uncertainty of the current climate, we had to do what will be in the best interest of our students, staff, and families. And so the decision was made and the calls went out that campuses would be closed at the end of the day Friday, in the thick of a Southern California rainstorm, exaggerating the feeling of apocalypse.
My eldest son at first was excited over the prospect of what he saw as an extended Spring Break- up until he realized that his swim season was going to be postponed, if not cancelled. My youngest daughter was anxious about the possibility of distance learning, of her concerts being cancelled, of life grinding to a shaky and sudden standstill. The middle two were somewhere in between in their responses, but it was interesting to see the differences in reaction among my four students. I can only imagine that families across the L.A. County and California were left in a similar state as more schools decided to close, and as the Governor made his announcements in the afternoon. Meanwhile, my social media feed showed homeschooling parent memes somewhat gloating over those of us who will now be “stuck at home” with our children as businesses discouraged coming into the office, and we faced three weeks of social distancing practices.
Yes, the situation is unprecedented. It isn’t as though there hasn’t been a pandemic in our lifetimes. Indeed, the H1N1 flu of 2009-2010 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The illness was first detected in North America, yet I do not remember school closures, social distancing measures, or any recommendations outside of the usual cold and flu season precautions. And I certainly do not remember a panic causing a run on toilet paper, water, and hand sanitizer. There is a fine line between preparedness and panic, caution and hysteria, and it seems that some of the responses we observe are driven not by microbiology and epidemiology but by psychology. I agree with slowing the spread by being deliberate in our practices; I thoroughly disagree with getting into a brawl with someone over an extra pack of toilet paper when you already have three in your cart.
All that to say, it’s going to be a long three weeks of “forced family fun,” with our regularly scheduled lives from school to work to Scouts being put on hold. Even the first part of our Spring Break has been cancelled. However, as frightening as it seems to have everyone home and fairly isolated, it doesn’t mean that we can’t redeem the time.
The kids will be using the time offered by the school closures to get caught up on some school work that they are behind on. We also made a stop at the San Marino library to check out some books.* We stocked up on adult coloring books, and the kids have an extensive supply of art and crafting materials so that they may stay entertained. Coloring is also a great way to relieve stress. We will be trying to keep a schedule for school work, meals, chores, and exercise. This schedule will not be as rigid as it would normally during the week, but at least keeping a sort of a routine would lend to a semblance of normalcy. The addition to our schedule will be family time in the evening. We have a good collection of board games and cards to enjoy in the evenings. Sami especially has been begging for family game night for the past couple months, and now we will have plenty of time to be together and play together. We will also try to give space from each other at points so that we can decompress individually. Family time is wonderful, but we will also need our own times to just sit and be. And as long as the mountains are open, we will continue to take hikes with our dog.
One last thing I am recommending the kids do is to journal this time. It isn’t often that life shuts down on account of a pandemic, and I would like for them to keep a record of how they felt during this time. What are they anxious about? How do they feel? What do they want to remember years from now as they think about living through the COVID-19 pandemic? I will be doing the same.
So stay safe out there. Wash your hands, remain home and get plenty of rest if you’re ill, cherish even this strange season. Times like these can bring out the worst in people, but they also often bring out the best. We can show love to our neighbors even in the midst of this uncertainty. And lastly, may it be noted, that our San Gabriel schools closed on Friday the 13th.
*Libraries within the Los Angeles County Library system are closed until March 31, 2020. For updated information, please visit here.
For more information on the COVID-19 pandemic, stay off Facebook and visit the Centers for Disease Control.
For San Gabriel Unified School District updates, visit sgusd.k12.ca.us.
Source info for H1N1: https://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/