Unusual Start of School

Tuesday was our first day of school, with a half day of information from the administration. Our first day of classes with students (via distance learning) was supposed to be yesterday. As seems to be the theme of 2020, nothing has gone according to plan. Plans change and we must adapt. How we react will influence those around us.

Tuesday morning at 3:23, I received a phone call, text message, email, and cell call from our county emergency system telling us we were in an evacuation zone due to a nearby fire. The recording said we were at level 3 – GO NOW! What?! This was the first we heard of an evacuation or that the fires were near enough to be a threat. Sure, it had been a little hazy the evening before, but nothing of concern. I will say that phone call was enough to get me concerned!

After a little more digging for information, we decided to wait a few hours for daylight and then figure out what to do. Though the call was clear that we were at level 3, the recording should not have gone to our phones. Our particular location was not in the danger zone. Frustrating but relieving at the same time. Our location was later declared level 2 – be ready to leave, and has remained at level 2. The air quality index is off the charts! Given some health issues, we decided I would leave with the kids. We spent the first day of digital learning in my classroom watching the videos of administrators on my projector! Our dogs and bunny were with us, too. 🙂

After “school”, the kids, dogs, bunny, and I drove northwest to the beach in the neighboring state. I am so fortunate to have family offering their beach cottage to us! My husband stayed behind to help people evacuate from his work, and has kept an eye on our house. We have been fortunate so far and I am so thankful.

Tuesday evening, we received a call canceling school. The first day of classes for 2020-2021 was canceled! Then, yesterday, the call came to cancel school for today. We will begin next week. The fires have taken homes, animals, and lives. This is devastating. My son’s school announced they are also postponing the start of school (scheduled for next Monday) but do not know when it will begin.

So, how do we react? Well, based on what I have witnessed over the last 48 hours, there are many different ways to react and some are more helpful than others. While out exploring yesterday, my kids and I overheard a woman on the phone (she had her cell on speaker, come on!). This woman, the one on the other end of the call, compared people that were evacuating from the fires and, I assume, heading toward her safe town, to “fucking rats fleeing a burning ship.” This was one of the ugliest moments of this whole experience for me. I could not believe my ears and was hopeful my kids had not heard her. Of course, they all heard her and we were quiet, embarrassed (why? we hadn’t done anything wrong!), and shocked. Though I thought about it throughout the afternoon and night, I was hopeful my kids had forgotten. I was wrong. My son asked me about it today. It is heartbreaking that people would speak about other people in such a way. What I am taking from this, and why I am sharing it with you, is a reminder that what we choose to say matters and people hear us. I must choose words of hope and encouragement, support and love.

In our own community, a different story is unfolding. People have assisted neighbors in evacuating. Livestock have been moved by strangers and farms have opened their stables to take in more animals that need to move. People are driving unhoused humans to shelters, offering to take as many as will fit in their cars each trip. People are texting neighbors with updates about their homes, including pictures to offer comfort at seeing their homes still standing. People want to help and are helping. People are mourning, and grieving, and supporting one another through the process. People are good to each other.

When we return to life after, we must remember to be the people that are good to one another. We must also show our students the good in the world and encourage participation and appreciation in that part of our lives. We will return to school. We will all be changed. We will adapt.

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