A transcript from the above video is located below:

Greetings, Providence Academy.  It is Friday, the first day of May.  May is traditionally the month of Mary.  We at PA have always honored that.  Today, many families joined us for our annual “May Crowning” event, both from cars in our parking lot and via live stream.  The children paid her wonderful tribute.  She brings hope to those children.  She brings hope to all of us.

At the beginning of this season of hope, I’d like to lay out a practical vision for Providence Academy in the coming fall.  My mother has always told me, “we don’t know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future.”  There remain many unknowns, of course, but we will plan, with faith and love, in the key of hope.

Our ability to implement a bold creative plan for the fall is dependent on two assumptions.  First: that governmental authorities will permit at least private schools to make their own decisions about reopening.  And second: that safety guidelines issued by health authorities by that time enable responsible and creative implementation.  Our pledge would be that, if permitted to exercise our Constitutionally guaranteed rights of free association and free exercise of religion, we will indeed be both creative and responsible.

With these assumptions, Providence Academy intends to welcome students back to campus for the new school year, August 31st.  That is our scheduled first day of orientation, with classes commencing September 2nd.  

We will be clear-headed about difficulties that COVID-19 will doubtless bring.  But we have no interest in surrendering in the face of difficulties.  Rather, we will prepare and work together to surmount them.

The safety of our community is a top priority, as I affirmed last week.  I said also that where multiple top priorities can be pursued together, we have a win-win.  There are reasons for confidence, at this point, that multiple priorities will be able to be pursued.  First is a growing body of data from around the world, and here in Minnesota.  Current cumulative data show that danger of mortality among school aged children from COVID-19 is basically zero.  Encouragingly, this is confirmed in Sweden as well, which has kept schools open.  The data about children are different not only from previous pandemics, but also from many annual flu viruses.  Let it be repeated: the very people whom we are established to serve, according to current data, are at negligible risk from the pandemic.  We will remain very attentive to data on this score, and will approach any of our own children with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions with special care and consideration.

Another reason for confidence has been the ability of private enterprises, those allowed to operate, in showing skill and creativity in protecting employees, customers, and suppliers.  That is the American spirit at work.

The COVID-19 virus does present danger to older demographic groups with underlying health conditions.  We are aware that members of our staff, and members of PA families, will need special care, provision, and protection.  We will examine new policies and practices that keep these groups additionally safe.  

We think it possible that preparing to hold school in the fall will entail adapting some of what we have learned during distance learning—-where students may have broad access to learning at home along with school-based learning.  Distancing protocols may require some alterations in traditional classroom arrangements, and approaches to lunch, athletics, arts, and activities.  There may be needs for new and innovative scheduling.  There will certainly be needs for heightened hygiene and sanitation protocols.  I’m happy to report that Nurse Maureen Murphy and Head Custodian John Wagner are already taking leadership in such preparations.  

These are but preliminary ideas about how we might meet our bold objective.  There are questions about our plans and abilities to hold various summer programs as well, should Minnesota policies open up.  We plan to outline a plan by next Friday

One thing is clear:  families’ and children’s needs must be taken into account in weighing and balancing long-term effects of the current situation.  Families need their school.  Children must be formed and taught, and have virtues modeled in community.  They must run, play, sing, create, and worship.  They must be shown ways to live in prudent courage, not abject fear.

In closing, I recall a saying attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola: Pray as though everything depends on God; work as though everything depends on you.

So shall we work.  So shall we pray.

In this glorious month of May, let us turn to Mary: Our Lady of Hope, pray for us.

God bless you.  I’ll see you next week.

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