Head of School’s Notebook — Readiness

May 14, 2020


I came across Jorge Reynoso this morning. He was measuring our classrooms so that we can determine exactly how many students can occupy them while abiding by safe distancing guidelines. Jorge is our Director of Risk Management and Campus Operations, and he has had a busy spring. There are so many eventualities that we are preparing for, so much risk to be managed, and so much information we need to inform our preparations.

Jorge is not alone in his efforts, of course. Thomas Gottwald and Sandi Pierce spent the morning arranging for kits containing masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, cleaning materials, and the like in every dormitory room and classroom in the school. We have work groups in process throughout the campus, including one on outdoor classrooms. Certainly we are uniquely positioned to get our students outdoors, even for class, especially if such a venue is also beneficial from a wellness standpoint.

Other work groups are looking at our daily and yearly schedule, in the former case to examine the viability of staggered start times in the day to reduce density of traffic or within facilities. The yearly schedule, depending upon when we start school—we have six scenarios stretching from August to November (the product of another work group)—will have fewer breaks during which students will leave campus and return home, our thinking being that the community is likely safest here on the Mesa. Some “vacations” may involve students remaining at Cate rather than traveling.

We are fortunate that Booth Commons is coming online in a few weeks, for that building gives us remarkable flexibility when it comes to meals, and fittingly it has massive amounts of outdoor dining possibilities. Unsure as we all are about what’s ahead, those of us on the Mesa are feeling confident about the factors we can control, about our preparation, our ability to adjust to evolving governmental policies or statutes, and our capacity to keep our students safe. Sometimes planning itself is a comfort, even when the future is far from set and the view forward blurry at best.

The whole dynamic actually reminds of a familiar ritual when I was a much younger man and spent much of my time in a crew shell. Races in rowing all have a starter, who in keeping with international guidelines for the sport, usually issues the starting commands in French.

“Êtes-vous prêts? Partez!” Are you ready? Go!

In such moments, when those words ring out, all the training comes down to the manner in which it translates into boat speed, the rhythm the crew can build, and the power. To begin a crew race is to literally explode off that line.

That is what I am looking forward to. We will be training and preparing still for months, all of us, the goal ostensibly is to be ready to begin school here on the Mesa. “Êtes-vous prêts?”

But that’s not what we are waiting for. It’s the next signal, the one that releases us from our waiting, the one that tells us the race is on. “Partez!”

Soon enough that moment will come. And we’ll be ready.