As New Year’s Eve celebrations occurred throughout the globe to usher in 2020, clusters of cases of pneumonia in people began popping up in China. By January 30, nearly 10,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported in at least 21 countries including the first in the United States on January 20.
Since early 2020, COVID-19 spread across countries like wildfire and this global pandemic became unlike anything most of us have ever seen in our lifetime.
However, amid the uncertainty as businesses closed and companies and schools switched to virtual platforms, Oak Knoll School has held on to certain principles to weather this unprecedented pandemic storm.
Keeping the Community Informed
Oak Knoll School began communicating with the community in late January when we first announced our monitoring of the health crisis. By late February, we made the difficult decision to cancel student trips abroad to Spain and Ireland. Since these first two communications, Oak Knoll has made nearly 20 announcements to our community about the ever-evolving pandemic while prioritizing the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff.
The New Normal
Oak Knoll School turned to virtual learning on March 23 and it became clear early on that the community would continue to engage and nurture students under “the new normal.” Faculty and staff began working with students virtually, while students and families adapted to new routines and learning with intention on Zoom instead of in-person classes. Their academic schedules became a balance of live in-class instruction with recorded lessons, extracurriculars that balanced the social-emotional and faith life needs of students — including virtual book clubs, prayer services, virtual grade-level lunches, school-wide morning meetings and virtual family events. Oak Knoll’s faculty also personalized and opted for small group online instruction when needed. Collectively, Oak Knoll made the transition into the new normal swift, safely and meaningful.
Helping Others During Difficult Times
Like many students across the country, many Oak Knoll students looked for ways to navigate the pandemic by helping others. The baking club baked and delivered sweet treats to every health care worker on every floor at Overlook Hospital. Oak Knoll's students, faculty and staff rallied together to help sew OKS branded masks for local hospitals and the Summit Police Department. And countless alumni health care workers risked their own lives in the new COVID-19 world by going to work each day in hospitals across the country. By turning the attention to how to help others in need navigate the pandemic, the Oak Knoll community continued our mission to serve others.
Reflecting on Lessons Learned
While we have already written a blog post on this topic, it’s important to reiterate that one of the guiding principles of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to reflect on the lessons we have learned as a school community. Although this may have been difficult for many at first, as time stretched on and stay-at-home orders continued, students and families spent more time at home together. More meals were eaten again around the kitchen table. Time slowed down. More families played in the backyard together, rode bikes and took walks. Reflecting on the silver linings of this pandemic has been a tool for the Oak Knoll community to help curb anxiety and despair surrounding the pandemic.
The Road Toward Reopening
Throughout the pandemic, Oak Knoll School has been adhering to the local and state officials lead toward reopening in a smart and safe fashion. Just last week, Head of School Timothy J. Saburn presented the community with a detailed plan of different ways the fall semester may look like in this new COVID-19 world. Saburn appointed a Reopening of School Task Force to develop plans for children to return to campus in September 2020. In coordination with the school’s counsel and doctor, the Task Force is made up of representatives from both school divisions and each department.
As the COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions remain ever-evolving, Oak Knoll’s guiding principles throughout the turmoil have been steadfast. The campus, taking its lead from state and health officials, is prioritizing our students’ needs by planning for the fall with the highest academic standards in mind, emphasizing the importance of our core values: faith, wisdom and service. With all these principles in place, the Oak Knoll community is poised to reopen in September with a highly effective and enriching academic year — no matter if we are using remote teaching methods or on-campus.