Message from the College Chair - March 16, 2020

Dear Friends,

As a Waldorf community, we strive for truth, goodness, and beauty, and we seek to create meaning so that, as free human beings, we can work together to uplift humanity.

The first Waldorf school was founded in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919, at a time of great social upheaval. In the wake of World War I and the deadly Spanish Flu Pandemic, there was considerable fear and unrest.  Rudolf Steiner cautioned against the heightened materialism of the time and, in light of this, advocated for social renewal.

Today we face similarly troubling issues and events. Our current political climate, environmental crises, and COVID-19 can create a sense of overwhelm and hopelessness. It is safe to say that we have become progressively more materialistic since Steiner’s time, and one can’t help but wonder about the spiritual forces behind recent events and reflect on our current task as human beings. What is being asked of us in this next stage of human development? What can we do, as spiritual human beings, to answer the call?

Many of us feel increasingly isolated from one another in spite of technology that allows for constant communication. Perhaps, as we are asked to isolate ourselves physically, we will renew our commitment to meaningful human interaction. Perhaps we are being called upon to focus on what really matters—our relationships with one another and the planet.

At this time, we can set the intention to remember our values and match our actions with them. It can be a time to slow down and become truly attentive, to care for our families, ourselves, and our physical spaces. We can think of this time as a gift, as we have the chance to cultivate what Gordon Neufeld speaks of as “being known” to one another. In these moments of physical togetherness with our families, we have more opportunities to be present.

It is a time to connect with the spiritual, create art and music, and engage with the natural world. It is a time to reach out to our community to provide support to those who are ill or struggling financially. By closing schools and working from home, we act collectively to protect our fellow human beings.

There are benefits to the earth at this time as well. We are burning fewer fossil fuels, as travel is restricted. Many of us now have time to bike or walk to our destinations, as the pace of life has slowed. We also may be adjusting consumption habits and noticing that our relationships (to the planet, animals, humans) are not transactional, but that we may have been treating them as such.

What will support our children at this time? It is important to comfort them and give them a sense of security, even when we are uncertain ourselves. A healthy rhythm with plenty of time outdoors, opportunities for movement, adequate sleep in a dark room, health-supporting nutrition with unprocessed foods and limited sugar, lots of water, warmth, limited exposure to media, laughter, connection and artistic opportunities will help to support your child. As always, your children’s teachers will continue to hold them in their daily meditations.

As children are always learning, they simply will be learning in a different way. They will be learning about how the world works when in crisis or uncertain times. And they will be watching us closely. How will the adults around them behave, think and speak? The children will adapt to seeing fewer friends and they will have more time to unwrap the gift of boredom. Rather than worrying that the children might “fall behind,” we can rest in knowing that they will gain a new perspective of the world which may lead to interests and action in their adult lives. Our hope is that we help to create in them a love of learning, an interest and engagement with the world, and the desire to make the world a better place. As always, our aim is to educate children to become free human beings who seek and uphold the truth.

Lower school teachers will not be using video conferencing to deliver lessons to students at this time. There are many reasons for this, including varied access to technology, individual family differences in time and availability, and pedagogical considerations. Individual teachers may choose to share an audio file or something similar, however. At the high school level, students are more capable of managing assignments and technology independently, so high school faculty will strive to provide the same amount of learning, reflection and academic progress as students would have at school, albeit in a modified format. That said, movement, nature, creativity, and rest are equally important for high school students and teachers will do their best to incorporate these elements and/or limit homework to allow for these activities. The details will be shared with high school families after teachers have had time to coordinate. Please ask your child’s teachers for more specific information.

A Verse for Our Time

We must eradicate from the soul
All fear and terror of what comes towards man out of the future.
We must acquire serenity
In all feelings and sensations about the future.
We must look forward with absolute equanimity
To everything that may come.
And we must think only that whatever comes
Is given to us by a world-directive full of wisdom.
It is part of what we must learn in this age,
namely, to live out of pure trust,
Without any security in existence.
Trust in the ever present help
Of the spiritual world.
Truly, nothing else will do
If our courage is not to fail us.
And let us seek the awakening from within ourselves
Every morning and every evening.
—Rudolf Steiner

With love and blessings on our community and our world,

Elizabeth Webber
for Portland Waldorf School College of Teachers:

Nina Churchill
Jill DeSantis
Victor Garza
Johanna Hibbard
Mariama Loos-Diallo
Shanti McCarter
Jenny Nielson
Jamie Quirk
Shay Roselip
Lukas Schneider

Message from the School Chair - March 12, 2020

Dear Parents,

In light of breaking news, Governor Brown’s latest announcements, and a great many conversations among trustees, teachers, and other school administrators, we are electing to close PWS effective Monday, March 16. We will remain closed through April 19 at least, and will be in regular communications with you throughout that time as we reassess and adjust our response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Tomorrow will be a day for students to take home their things, and for the teachers to wrap up a final day of in-person instruction. Class events that are calendared for Friday or Saturday will either be canceled or will take place with additional restrictions around attendance and location; please look for a direct communication from your child’s teacher.

After Saturday, March 14, all nonessential school gatherings through Spring Break will be canceled or rescheduled, or converted to an online platform. This includes field trips, athletic events, parent meetings, and unfortunately our Uplift celebration. More on that later.

Monday and Tuesday will be in-service days for all faculty and staff as we meet, plan, and prepare for work to continue over the coming weeks. For high school students, we will be able to offer content online. For the lower school, teachers will be utilizing resources such as audio lessons, work packets, class projects, and written assignments to keep up with the year’s curriculum.

This month’s parent-teacher conferences will be held remotely or rescheduled at the teachers’ discretion.
While there are many logistics yet to nail down, I want to affirm that this decision has been a beautiful example of collaboration. Out of a shared desire to live our values and uplift humanity, we choose to embrace this opportunity to protect, support, and care for our entire community–including our elders, those with underlying health conditions, and the many health care providers working diligently to meet an overwhelming need that shows no sign of abating.

This is not an act of fear. Rather, it is an act of love. We will weather this together.

Wishing everyone health and courage,

Jamie Quirk
School Chair

Message from the School Chair - March 6, 2020

Dear Parents,

As promised, below is an update on the school’s ongoing response to COVID-19, what administration and faculty are doing, and what parents can do to support the overall health of our community. In order to be as prepared as possible to address potential coronavirus scenarios, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners declared a state of emergency on March 2. This declaration enables the county to streamline resources and staffing and establish emergency policies and protocols.

In addition to this and various communications received from the county and local school districts, on Tuesday I participated in a conference call with 60 Waldorf school administrators around the country. From this information, and in consultation with members of our parent body who work in the healthcare field, we have assembled a plan.

1. We have an administrative response team, which also includes a medical doctor from the community. This team is tasked with monitoring the news, delegating tasks, and developing communications for parents and employees.

2. We are augmenting our standard practices around cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting the spaces in the lower school and high school. Kits with additional cleaning supplies will be stored in classrooms so that teachers can tackle their spaces each day; common areas such as railings, door knobs, and light switches will be addressed daily by administrative staff.

3. You can expect a weekly email from me unless there is urgent breaking news. Because of the volume of questions and concerns we are receiving, please understand if I or other members of the administration cannot respond immediately to emails and voicemails around what the school is doing. I ask that you look for these weekly emails, and allow us to focus our time and attention on the work itself.

4. Know that we will be extra vigilant around enforcing our sickness policy. While parents may elect to keep their child home at any time as a precautionary measure, teachers and staff are being asked to send any child home who is not feeling well enough to participate in class or who exhibits symptoms beyond the occasional cough or sneeze.

5. Likewise, we are asking teachers and staff to stay or work from home if they are feeling unwell. Thank you for your patience and understanding if your child has more substitutes in the coming weeks than expected, or if class plans are altered.

6. In regard to families’ upcoming travel plans, we are asking parents to consider the various trips, gatherings, and events on their calendar now through spring break, and follow the guidelines of the CDC in firming up plans. At this time we are not canceling any school trips or events, but that could change.

7. We ask parents to be extra mindful when talking to their children about this coronavirus, especially in regard to age appropriate levels of information and anxiety. There are several good articles online that address talking about COVID-19 with children; this one is my favorite.

8. Every authoritative resource asserts how crucial proper and regular hand washing can be. Administration has created extra signage in the bathrooms as guidance, and extra paper towels and soap will be made available. While teachers are overseeing and reinforcing proper hand washing protocol to the extent that they can, it is important that parents are also taking these steps at home. Please emphasize with your children that they should cover their coughs and sneezes with their elbows, and refrain from touching their faces as much as possible.

9. The teachers have been asked to temporarily suspend their daily handshakes with students. While we do not believe this act will drastically impact the spread of this coronavirus, it is one more precaution we can take, and one that many other Waldorf schools are taking in the short term.

10. Next steps: The response team is formulating plans to weather any possible closures, considering the addition of a work party for deeper spring cleaning, and weighing the options for altering programming schedules should classes be suspended for a significant period.

Last but certainly not least, I want to stress the value of focusing on factors that support human health and well-being. Most of us know that eating a nutritious diet, dressing warmly, getting enough restorative sleep and outdoor time, and taking care of underlying health conditions strengthen our immune systems. Yet, in our busy schedules, these things can often fall to the side, even with our little ones. Taking the extra time to slow down and attend to our bodies’ needs is one of the best things we can do, with benefits no amount of bleach can match.

I recognize that this is a lot of information to take in, and that being proactive involves a measure of inconvenience for everyone. As always, I am appreciative of the cooperative and collaborative environment I have found here at PWS.

Warmest regards,

Jamie Quirk, School Chair

A Verse for Our Time

We must eradicate from the soul
All fear and terror of what comes towards man out of the future.
We must acquire serenity
In all feelings and sensations about the future.
We must look forward with absolute equanimity
To everything that may come.
And we must think only that whatever comes
Is given to us by a world-directive full of wisdom.
It is part of what we must learn in this age,
namely, to live out of pure trust,
Without any security in existence.
Trust in the ever present help
Of the spiritual world.
Truly, nothing else will do
If our courage is not to fail us.
And let us seek the awakening from within ourselves
Every morning and every evening.

—Rudolf Steiner

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