Many of you reacted very positively to the announcement on Wednesday that The École would continue to offer classes onsite despite the closure of public schools in NYC. On our side, we are equally happy to be able to do our job live in front of classes, be they cohorts!
You will have understood that this decision is not a fanciful whim or an act of rebellion. It falls within both a scientific framework and a legal framework for independent schools in New York. Because it is easy to prove, with the figures to back it up, that schools are not a source of spreading the virus. Beyond these factors and maybe more importantly, our collective desire to continue school onsite also falls within an ethical framework. Indeed, we made the commitment of everyone the centerpiece of our return onsite. This commitment, along with our quasi-motto—we’re all in this together—was agreed upon by signing a pledge. That pledge reminds each of us of what we must do and what is expected of us during this unique time.
Because it is an ethical one, this pledge only has value if we respect it. The fact that we have no way to make people adhere to the pledge may seem like a real weakness. However, this is actually its strength because it is the mark of our common resolve. A resolve to imagine the safest possible way of living together—by keeping the virus at a distance. A resolve to imagine the happiest possible way of living together—by ensuring that our students can come to school to learn and to flourish. This signed pledge represents, as T.M. Scanlon said so superbly, “what we owe to each other” in reply to an unprecedented situation.
What We Owe to Each Other
What we owe each other today, as we well know, is to take as little risk as possible. We do this so that The École can continue to welcome the students who wish to come all day every day. So, from the beginning, our teachers agreed to work in more difficult conditions. Students agreed to have longer days and to go without some activities that they love. And families agreed to follow the rules about keeping cohorts apart outside of school. They also agreed to limit, or even give up, various recreational activities. All of this has paid off. Yet, it is all fragile.
For, beyond the legal or scientific framework of our decision to remain open, it does not mean that our community, which has voiced its support virtually unanimously for staying onsite, might not change its mind in favor of a new type of arrangement in the coming weeks. Because the numbers are rising. Or because there might be less confidence in public transit. Because we might not be as sure about the measures that have been put in place. Or because the virus might start affecting people that we know.
We Remain Agile
At the risk of repeating myself, the wish of The École is to continue to welcome students onsite as long as we can. However, today, it is also our job to listen. Not only to the governor or to a positivity rate, but also to you. Looking at what we have accomplished together in the past three months, we would be wrong to not listen to what you have to say. Up until now, you have been right on the money. I don’t see any reason why that should change. It is in you as much as in Cuomo and in the data that we place our confidence to guide us over the coming weeks.