Let’s do more than reopen — let’s re-imagine

From the ACSA President, Linda Kaminski

May 25, 2020
ACSA President Linda Kaminski.
Like many of you, I have been watching and reading the news and websites much more than usual. I want to make sure that I have the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 that will help me understand the risks and safeguards to better guide my school district and family.  In doing this, I noticed that over the last two months, our language, the words we use to describe our thoughts and priorities regarding COVID-19, has changed.  I recall the shock I felt when I first heard the word “pandemic.” Before that, I thought of COVID-19 as a disease that largely impacted other countries. Even as a few cases arrived on our shores, it was an unfortunate but natural result of international travel. Not anymore. Pandemic means that COVID-19 is threatening all of us across the world, some areas certainly more than others, but all of us in one way or another. My heart and prayers go out to all who have been impacted by this unseen microbe.  After the initial shock that this disease was impacting us, I began to notice other words. “Recover” spoke to me of the conviction that as a society, we would be able to protect each other, defeat the disease, and go back to normal. It looks now like it will be a long recovery.   Most recently, the word I hear is “reopen.” When will schools reopen? Will it be this summer or next fall? For many, reopening implies a return to normal. Having a date brings a sense of hope and normalcy. As COVID-19 continues to impact us, more and more educators ask, “What will it take to reopen?”   As educators, we want to recover; we want schools to reopen. ACSA, our county offices of education, and our districts are all forming teams to outline what we must do to reopen. 

Let us not return to normal, but lead our schools forward to a new normal, re-imagined, and redesigned to engage all students, enhance their learning experiences, and ensure equity and excellence. 
This is commendable, but insufficient. We need another word if we are to benefit and learn from the challenges faced and overcome. During this period of school closures, we tried new ways of teaching, collaborated with our colleagues more, and increased outreach to students and families to ensure strong connections — electronic and personal. We did things differently. We were forced to respond quickly, and we re-imagined education.  As we prepare to reopen schools, let us, instead, re-imagine our schools. Let us build on what we learned. Let us carry forward the best of these challenging times with the best of what we had before and re-imagine how we do education. Let us not return to normal, but lead our schools forward to a new normal, re-imagined, and redesigned to engage all students, enhance their learning experiences, and ensure equity and excellence. We did it for the short-term response to the pandemic. We can do it for the long-term future of our students. I am convinced that we must and confident that we can lead forward to re-imagine education.

© 2020 Association of California School Administrators