School Business Affairs May 2020 SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | MAY 2020 31 Navigating a “new normal” personally and professionally. Reflections on COVID-19 and a Look to the Future By Corey J. Lowell, SFO W hen this pandemic over, what will we remember about this historic event? I want it to be more than toi- let paper hoarding, and we might get there by asking: Who did the work? Who will emerge as heroes? Did we lead by example? Past events provide some guidance. Almost anyone old enough to be a business administrator remembers 9/11, and most of us can recall almost every detail of that day. I remember how it made me feel. Sad. Lost. Confused. Patriotic. New songs joined the playlist: “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.” We don’t feel very “free” right now. Now we’re dealing with a pandemic and social distancing is the best answer we have so far. Many of our students are hard hit, and they need us now more than ever. School Solutions: Touch Points to Hot Spots I think the first time I heard the word coro- navirus I thought it was a bar joke. When my superintendent said we needed to update our Pandemic Preparedness Plan, I thought, “Another DOE exercise for something that could never happen.” Then on March 4, Governor Murphy reported our first pre- sumptive positive case in New Jersey; on March 9 he declared a State of Emergency. On March 10, we had a somewhat ordi- nary admin meeting to discuss cleaning “touch points” in buildings twice daily; Chromebooks; Wi-Fi hot spots for students without Internet access at home; how to pro- vide social/emotional support to our at-risk population; accommodations for our students with IEPs; feeding our free and reduced-price lunch students during an extended closure; and the importance of reminding people to wash their hands. That day, it felt like we were planning for “if” not “when.” “When” came within the next week. On Friday the 13th (cue the scary music) Gover- nor Murphy recommended the “cancellation of all public gatherings of more than 250 individuals” and “keeping a six-foot dis- tance from others.” Social Distancing Becomes a Thing Our superintendent pulled the trigger on our remote learning plan on March 13, with an emergency closure on March 16; the first day of remote learning and delivering meals to students was March 17. A few districts in Monmouth County closed prior to the governor’s press conference, but by Monday, gatherings were limited to “50 persons or fewer.” Social distancing was now “a thing” and getting more serious by the day. Execu- tive order 104 “indefinitely close[d] all pub- lic and private preschool, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education.” Conducting board business required adaptations, too. The same week remote learning began, we had to figure out how exactly to conduct board meetings to adopt our tentative budgets. There were combina- tions of in-person meetings, virtual meet- ings, and hybrids of the two. At the March 19 board meeting at Shore Regional, board members sat at individual tables spaced six feet apart; tables had been wiped down with a hospital-grade disin- fectant before the meeting. Other admin- istrators were told to go home, and no members of the public attended. It made for a quick meeting. Less than a week later, we’re discuss- ing virtual meetings for the end of April. A new law signed March 20 specifically allows for this. Is this the new normal? It’s still surreal to me. Bars are closed. Many restaurants are closed if they couldn’t transition to perspective FERENC SZELEPCSENYI/STOCK.ADOBE.COM