Email Update from Jim – March 31
Yesterday afternoon, Governor DeWine announced the extension of closing schools through Friday, May 1. Thus, at the earliest, students would be invited back into our lonely building on May 4. While this is no surprise, it is not easy news for any of us. By mid-April, I hope we have a clear view of May.
I am proud of our teachers and trust they are communicating with you. As always, we value your feedback. If there is a way we can be better responsive, please let us know. We also love your creative ideas! Grammar School parents, you can expect a weekly communication from Mr. Piazza and Upper School parents will receive the weekly newsletter via Mrs. Zuccola. We will also be letting you know about virtual chapels and assemblies to come.
We are praying for all of you. Children will take their cues from their parents as to how they should feel about all of this so I pray you make the most of this. In six months we will look back and say: “That was hard, but the Lord used this in so many ways and brought us through and we are stronger.” In the recent Upper School newsletter, Mrs. Zuccola wrote:
It is good to make plans. It is good to forge ahead. It is even better to do so with an attentive ear to God’s plan redirecting our steps. Proverbs 16:9 says: The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. So, as many of our steps are far fewer in number and cover a significantly smaller distance, may we tread attentively listening to God’s will. I planned to go to the grocery store when it was convenient to me. I planned to go to the recreation center. I planned to go to Florida to visit my cousin over Spring Break. God did NOT plan for me to do these things. Many of our students are getting their first big taste of what life is like when it does not go according to our plans. It seems as if this lesson is going to be one that we might have a few months to learn well. But, we know that Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Indeed. Surely none of us planned for this. To an extent we were prepared; however, it is certainly not our will. May we find joy in God’s will for us during these times.
Indeed, there is joy to be found!
Thank you for being such a blessing to us! So many of you have let us know you are praying for the staff and leadership. We are grateful!
Email for Jim – March 27
Dear WCA Parents,
This morning I opened my bible to the gospel of Mark, chapter 4. In verses 35-41, I read about the apostles who are scared to death in a small boat on the Sea of Galilee. A sudden storm developed and it was so bad that they were certain they would sink and die. Jesus was actually in the boat with them. Asleep! The disciples were panicked and finally yelled to Jesus over the noise of the storm: “Teacher, do you not care we are perishing?” Jesus stands up, calms the sea and then questions their faith. Ah, how pertinent this is for today! Singer/songwriter Scott Krippayne writes: Sometimes God calms the storm, other times he calms his child.* May we be at peace in the midst of today’s storm as Jesus is in our boat and has power over all. Indeed, may we Count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds… (James 1: 2-5)
I hope this week has been a good one for your family! Surreal, I suspect, but I pray it has been good. As school begins again on Monday, albeit remotely, there are a few things I wish to outline for you. First, know that we are preparing for the likely reality of not having students in the building for the rest of the year. With that in mind:
- On Monday, you should begin receiving correspondence again from your child’s teachers. This will be just our second week of remote instruction and will likely look a bit like the first week. Moving forward, we expect the following in the days ahead:
- Most every teacher will begin using Google Classroom to engage with students and provide a level of online direct instruction. We wish to stay in personal touch with all of our students via video and virtual conferencing.
- Every teacher will establish “Office Hours” with a way to reach them directly. That way, if you have questions, or your student does, there will be a reliable way to reach the teacher.
- There will still be a way to pick up and drop off packets of materials.
- Teachers will be working together (virtually) to make things as coordinated and purposeful as possible, all instruction being focused on our mission, not on keeping kids busy.
- Teachers will be able to come into the building for essential things. By the end of next week, we will have more details coming to you and your students. Our goal is to provide Christ-centered education and make the most of this unique opportunity. And it is indeed an opportunity for all of us.
- We have staff meetings that will begin Monday. All will be virtual. We will maintain office hours at school, 9:00 – 3:00, when materials can be picked up and dropped off.
- You will receive regular all-school and division-wide communication via video, livestream, and email.
- We will be providing virtual Chapels, all school “assemblies,” and other community connectors via livestream. All will be recorded and then archived on our website for you.
- We will provide various ways for parent communication, gaining your thoughts and ideas, including a way to share how the Lord is using this unprecedented time in your own lives. We know many of our parents are overwhelmed due to juggling work and having kids at home, uncertainties of income, and caring for elderly parents, grandparents, or others you love. We desire to come alongside you, not burden you further.
- Every event this spring will likely be cancelled or postponed. The 6th grade environmental education trip is cancelled and parents will receive a refund. The 8/9 Washington, DC trip has been postponed to late September. All field trips are cancelled as is the annual golf outing. Our high school graduation will most likely be postponed until the summer. We hope to pin that down soon. Special activities for seniors will be different than originally planned.
- Re-enrollment: We have extended our enrollment discount deadline from April 1 to May 1. If your intent is to reenroll your children for next year, please do so by May 1 and you will reduce the enrollment fee from $385 to $350. It would be helpful if you would complete the enrollment process on-line now, even if the fee does not come in until later. This helps us tremendously to know how to plan for staffing and materials for next fall.
- If you are uncertain about finances for next year, please reach out to us and let us know. Tuition assistance is there to help and we wish to work with every family. Please do not be shy about letting us know if you are in financial need.
- As an organization, please know we are also planning carefully in the areas of: 1) Admissions and how to engage prospective parents when coming into the building is not possible; 2) Finances and weighing the potential impact of current events; 3) Fundraising and how we will make up a gap now that our spring golf event is cancelled and so many supporters of WCA have been hit financially; 4) Operations and how we can conserve resources and also take care of our facility needs.
This past week I have been involved in a number of webinars with school leaders from around the country. I am so thankful for the organizations in which we hold membership – the Association of Christian Schools International and the Association of Classical and Christian Schools. As Christian educators we have a perspective unlike other schools – one of hope in a Savior, and an opportunity to grow personally and organizationally in ways unexpected. Though I may be a bit emotionally exhausted like you, I see more and more how the Lord is using this unique situation. I truly embrace the schooling that is before us as an opportunity and not a burden.
God has his plans and we have ours. May His will be done and ours joyfully conform to it. Jesus stands up in our boat and says “Why are you so afraid?” and calms our hearts by His presence. Eventually, He will say “Peace! Be still!” and calm the storm.
Just another disciple in the boat with you,
Email from Jim, March 19
Today is Thursday, just the fourth day of this new educational adventure. It seems like more time than that has gone by. I am trusting that you are receiving adequate communication from your child’s teachers. Actually, I hope it is more than adequate. Please let Tim Piazza or me know if anything is troubling you. Thank you for you encouragement and commitment to prayer.
Prayer. One year ago I chose for this year’s school theme Pray Without Ceasing based on 1Thes 5:16-18. I believed God was leading us to that for a reason – challenges up ahead. Challenges in program growth, building growth, finances, and challenges of the heart. Are we as God’s children becoming too complacent, even entitled? I now look back over this past year and know that our call to prayer this year, including rejoicing always and thanking God in all circumstances, was meant to help prepare for a different kind of challenge. Now, more than ever, He calls us to humble ourselves before Him and ask for wisdom in decisions, peace in the midst of confusion, joy everlasting, and revival in this world.
A few other things to note:
- Attached is an article from last Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer on the benefits of a liberal arts education. It is worth reading when you get a chance.
- Our spring break begins tomorrow and school resumes Monday, March 30. There will be a staff person at school next week from 9-3 should you have something to pick up and drop off. However, the teachers will be “breaking” from instruction during this time. You may receive no communication from us next week. (And the people rejoiced!)
- We are posting teacher communication online in a grade-level format. See: https://westsideacademy.org/remote
- An announcement went out yesterday about Eagle TV. Student produced videos that are educational and in keeping with the WCA mission can we sent to email@example.com. If accepted (We have standards!) they will be posted here: https://westsideacademy.org/eagletv/
- Though we hope school can resume in April or May, we are gearing up for the real possibility of no normal school through the end of the year. This, of course, raises so many questions, including things like student presentations, high school graduation, class events, and fundraising events. The most important concern is simply critical relationships – student-to-student, student and teacher, parents and teachers. We will keep you posted as we are able. Feel free to send your questions and suggestions to us. We are in this together!
I would like to end with something I received today from another ministry, the In His Steps Foundation. IHS director Ben Lee writes:
As unprecedented as these days feel to all of us, the people of God throughout the ages have lived and ministered through countless catastrophes. One example stands out: In the early 4th-century a plague swept through the Roman Empire causing unimaginable famine, fear, and death. As the Romans fled the ravaged cities for the countryside, one group stayed behind: Christians. A Bishop named Eusebius wrote about those extraordinary days: “All day long some of them [the Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.” Eusebius goes on to state that because of their compassion in the midst of the plague, the Christians’ “deeds were on everyone’s lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians.” May it be said of us in 2020 that in small, personal ways, and in our collective life together, we embody the patient, present love of God in the midst of so much fear, and that we love God well by loving our neighbors.
Amen to that!
I am grateful for our WCA family. Pray without ceasing, friends, and remember how Jesus taught us to pray – for our daily bread. He provides for today and will again tomorrow. Such lessons of trust he has for us all!
In His embrace,
Email from Jim, March 16
I hope you are faring well with all that is going on in our world and your own “back yard.” Thank you for your patience with us at WCA as we design plans amid continual change. I hope this email gives you a little more guidance. We will do our best to keep you as up-to-date as possible.
I met with all of the teachers today. We prayed, shared, and planned. Let me outline a few things for you.
- I have to say our faculty continue to impress me. They are diligent, godly, professional, and caring as they are working hard to provide instructional guidance for our students and for you. A few of their guidelines includes remote instruction that is:
- true to WCA’s mission
- purposeful and meaningful
- as flexible as possible for our families
- focused on these next few weeks for now, while keeping an eye on the real possibility this could go one through May
- Parent conferences will be held remotely, not in person. Teachers will be contacting you about this.
- Grammar School homeroom teachers will contact their parents directly to see when you can talk, perhaps at your scheduled time this week or another time that works for you within the next one to three weeks.
- Upper School teachers will be sending information out so you can talk with any teacher you believe (or they believe) is necessary.
- Teachers are to be in touch with you about class/course work to be done at home. This varies from grade to grade. If packets, assignments, books or other materials are to be picked up or dropped off at school, this is possible on Tuesday and Thursdays from 9:00 – 3:00. We will let you know if this changes. Also, there will likely be bumps in this process from our end, including the communication. We are working to streamline as much as possible.
- We realize that a huge burden is placed on parents. It is also an opportunity and we are praying for you. Some of you might be overwhelmed with things coming home, especially those with multiple children. All we can ask is that you do your best and we will do the same. We want to work together and find joy in what is ahead of us.
- Teachers are accessible via email and by any other means they may have spelled out. They are all working, albeit remotely, during this time to provide instruction in sensible ways. However, there is spring break scheduled for March 20-29 and we encourage our teaching staff and families to use that time for such.
I will be sending more later this week. May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Email from Jim, March 13
First, thank you for your love and care for WCA. I know many have been praying and have offered support for these upcoming weeks. I find our WCA amazing on so many fronts!
Here is where we have landed thus far:
- There will NOT be school on Monday. No more regular school until at least April 6.
- Teachers will be sending some work home. Many will do this today, but not all. Others will have work ready in packets to pick up late Monday or on Tuesday. Students will be expected to engage in a certain level of school-related work next week and the week of March 30. We will send more information out specific to the age level of the student. We do wish to honor the pre-scheduled spring break of March 20-29.
- Parents-teacher conferences are “on” at this point. However, this will likely be via telephone at the scheduled time of GS parents. For US parents, it will be a matter of scheduling a time to talk. We will send more information to you on that as soon as we can. It is likely that many will need to be re-scheduled. These are important discussions.
- I am meeting with all students this afternoon to explain what is happening.
- Teachers are meeting Monday to further prepare for instructional opportunities for our students. We will send more information to you after that.
- We will make sure the building is deeply sanitized during this break.
- The trip to Washington, DC for our 8th and 9th graders will be cancelled or postponed to the fall. We will send more on this to parents of these students.
- Health updates state-wide, can be found at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/
- I know there is great hardship here for many, many families who are trying to figure out these next few weeks. Most of you work during the day. All we can ask from our end is for you to do the best you can with what you have and strive to make this as positive as possible. I am praying for you, that the Lord would give you wisdom in all of this and you will make the most of a unique opportunity.
In His joy and partnership with you,
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…
Email from Jim, March 12
Gov. DeWine just sent out an order closing schools from end of school day Monday through April 3. This is fresh news with many unanswered questions. For now, I would like all parents to know that:
- School is in session tomorrow. At this point we plan to have school Monday as well.
- By end of day tomorrow, we hope to share our plan with you for the next few weeks. It is possible that parent conferences will still take place. It is possible we will be able to provide instructional opportunities for our students next week and the week of March 30. Yet, until the Governor’s office makes things clearer, we are not completely certain. We are planning for this, however.
- Most importantly, we MUST think “Christianly” in all things. This is the very thing we endeavor to train our students to do. “How does God see this? How are we to approach the events around us?” PLEASE remember WHOSE we are and that the Lord instructs us: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
- We are NOT to fear. Scripture is so very clear. Meditate on Psalm 121, Psalm 23 or others. Panic is NEVER God’s plan for us. Pray without ceasing. Consider again 1Thes. 5:16-18.
- OUR CHILDREN will take their cues from the adults in their lives. Young child will be anxious (even if they don’t show it) if their parents are worried or dismayed or let their children listen to the news repeatedly.
May we all stay calm and know that God is in control. If we look with an open Christ-like mind and heart, we may discover opportunities to display His goodness in ways that would not have come otherwise.
We are as on top of this as we can be at WCA. But even as I hit “send” on this email, I know things may change by dinner time. We will keep you in the loop.
Thank you, dear partners in Christian education, for standing with us in prayer.
God is good.