As an annual fire safety evacuation drill, I can remember going down a 4 story fire chute at my childhood school. It was a large tubular, metal pipe with an internal slide that swirled around and around on the descent to ground level. (Picture something at a waterpark.) For some reason, I seemed to always go first in my class. I was usually the tallest in my class, which helped in kicking open the doors at the bottom of the chute, and had been the Class President from middle school through high school which also allowed me this annual privilege. Perhaps most of all, I didn’t mind picking up the dust with my clothes (and sometimes dead pigeons) that had collected inside the chute since the last time it had been used the year before. Although it was traumatically dreadful for some students to go through this perennial exercise (I forgot to mention—it was pitch dark for the entire ride!), I always enjoyed it and would often try to go multiple times. It was like Great America...but free!
Can you imagine our children doing that today? Just think of the phone calls I would get from parents: “Mr. Davidson, can you explain why my son came home covered in dust? And where did these pigeon feathers come from?” What was an unquestioned and unanimously accepted safety protocol during my childhood would seem like such a foreign and out-of-place practice today. Eventually, the same will be true of many of the safety protocols in our school this year.
Imagine walking into a classroom with plexi-glass separating the desks, each pair of desks six feet apart from the next closest pair, the quiet hum of a HEPA air filter in the background, teachers and students engaging with some classmates over a computer, a day porter cleaning every surface in the building all day every day, posters as visual reminders to wash your hands, reporting your general health and temperature to the school every morning, arrows on the floor to direct traffic flow, teachers wearing microphones and ear buds, and everyone wearing masks. A year ago, this would have sounded like something out of a movie — definitely in the science fiction genre.
But it’s what we are doing this year [along with so much more] to provide an in-person model for our students. Like the old rusty fire chute, in time we’ll move on. We’ll return to normalcy and abandon most of these practices. (Don’t worry, Timothy moms, we’ll always encourage hand-washing!) Yet for now, this is what it takes to have school in a pandemic. And we’ve been one of the very few PreK-12 schools around that have done it.
Timothy announced in late April of 2020 that our intent was to return to in-person learning for the 2020-2021 school year, and we never wavered in our conviction.
Our messaging for the summer months stayed intensely and consistently focused. The message was simple: after being forced into a fully remote model for the spring of 2020, we were going back in-person for the 2020-2021 school year! We spent the entire summer planning, working, and mobilizing to make certain we could deliver on our promise.
Our board of directors [under the mighty leadership of President Joel Tameling] prayerfully displayed wisdom, courage, and decisiveness. Our health team [led by Super-Nurse Erica Plaisier] jumped into action and created a plan that would ultimately be the model for many schools around the country. Jill Tigchelaar and Cindy VanKampen joined Erica as the contact-tracing team working days, nights, weekends, and holidays. Our building leaders and administrators logged in plenty of overtime hours, and our courageous teachers and staff jumped into action with a “Go Beyond” commitment that has never been witnessed before. Our parents have collectively determined they will not be gripped with fear, and our youth have shown a “can-do” type of resilience over and over. Basically 92% of our students have been on campus each weekday while 8% typically join us remotely. 100% of our teachers are on the job!
The Timothy community has lifted up our school in prayer, and God has proven Himself faithful once again. Our mission has advanced this year, even in a pandemic. The Timothy community has rallied together, and we are fully living out our purpose with a tremendous spirit of unity. 2020 has had its share of adversity, but if we quiet our minds and pause to reflect, we’ll even discover something romantic about the 2020-2021 school year here at Timothy.
There are those over the summer who did not think Timothy would last a week let alone an entire semester. Even now, after sustained success, there are those who are rooting against us.
Yet we proceed with our confidence in the Lord.
Being out in front and in the lead, Timothy has been able to positively influence so many other schools along the way. We’ve also influenced churches and even played an important role in government. There are so many stories that I’ll probably never be able to fully tell. But it is important to know that hubris does not exist here at Timothy. To the contrary, we remain humble — and I mean “on our knees” kind of humility. Unexplainably, but according to His perfect will, God has favored our undertaking here at Timothy.
There are two Bible verses that have been on my dry erase board for several months, and I see them every day. Proverbs 3:5,6 and Isaiah 30:21. So many have rolled up their sleeves and worked hard thus far. We’ve really put our backs into this effort. Yet in the end, this chapter of our history will eventually close with the same conclusion as every other: “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12) He has never let us down...He has never failed. He alone is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise. His faithfulness continues.
Press on, Timothy.