Ten Portland Adventist Academy students made school history this summer. They were the first to attend in-person class during the coronavirus pandemic.
As Oregon health authorities began to lift stay home orders in June, small groups were allowed to meet in person which meant PAA could offer its annual summer World History course.
More importantly, it provided the opportunity to practice, improve, and prepare to bring students back to the classroom in the fall.
To follow protocol for social distancing, the class was capped at ten students. Students wore masks and took frequent breaks for fresh air, hand-washing, and surface cleaning.
“It was a bit hard to remember all the COVID rules at the beginning,” says freshman, Elizabeth Struntz. “It’s hard to breathe and your ears start to hurt because the elastic pulls. Staying at least six feet apart was hard [at first] but it’s not as hard as I thought. Over the weeks, it’s gotten easier.”
“Even though masks can be annoying, we still wear them for the safety of others,” said Zach, a student who wished to remain anonymous.
Zach and his family quarantined through much of the summer after they had contact with someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus. He is tenaciously committed to keeping others safe.
“I don’t want to risk someone else’s life because I didn’t put on a mask when I should have,” he says. “I don’t want to risk someone else’s life because I didn’t practice social distancing. I want to protect others in case I do have Covid-19.”
“The safety of our entire PAA family, as well as the greater community is our top priority,” says Mechelle Peinado, PAA Principal. “We have and always will follow state and health department guidelines. As we move forward, so many things will look different this school year. And we have to stay flexible.”
Staying flexible is imperative. As the World History class was concluding, Oregon state requirements for in-person school were announced and the potential for meeting in-person to begin the new school year was in question.
But, just as flexibility is essential, it is also an advantage.
While much larger schools are making the tough decision to meet entirely online given the uncertainty, PAA’s small size allows teachers and students to move from in-person to distance learning seamlessly.
As Multnomah county’s coronavirus cases decrease or increase, PAA students and parents can count on high quality education either in the classroom or online.
Students like Elizabeth and Zach maintain mature perspective.
Zack knows that one day his potential grandchildren may study this pandemic in their own World History class. “I hope they see that life is fragile” he says. “And that if we want to protect it we have to do the best we can to help each other out. If something like this happens again, I hope they can be better people and appreciate life more than they have before.”
“As Christians, we should keep our eyes on Jesus and recognize that this is the sign that He is coming soon,” says Elizabeth Struntz. “As Christians, we should check in on our church family whether it’s in driving by their house and waving at them, calling them on the phone, or praying for them. We should work together while we travel through this uncharted territory.”