Monday, March 30, 2020

Conversation with Coach Gibson

I just had a good conversation with Coach Jason Gibson of the Columbus Lions. I told him that school continues to be closed until April 27th, so there is no way that we could participate in the game. As I suspected, he says that the National Arena League is postponing the start of their season, and they're discussing not beginning until June. If that happens, their season would go into July & August, and I told him that we might be interested in participating at that point, depending on a lot of factors. If not this year, maybe next year. I asked him to keep us in mind, and he said that he definitely would.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Instrument Update

Just a short message to let you know that I heard back from Dr. McFee about instruments that are still in the school building. He asked that you please remain patient, and that we continue to keep the building locked down.

Friday, March 27, 2020

School Update

This a brief message to update you on the current situation after yesterday's announcement.

As I'm sure you're aware, Governor Brian Kemp held a press conference yesterday (3/26) and extended the school closure until Friday, April 24th. Under this plan we would resume classes on Monday, April 27th, have 4 weeks of school, and have graduation on Friday May 22nd. As of now there's been no discussion of make-up days or extending the school year.

A few of you whose instrument is the Band Room have asked about getting it out. As far as I know the building is still under lock down, so no one is allowed in for any reason. I have sent Dr. McFee an e-mail and asked about this situation and what we can do, but I have not as yet heard back from him.

Infections continue to rise, so PLEASE practice social distancing/self-quarantining,  wash & sanitize your hands as often as possible, and keep from touching your face as much as possible. COVID-19 is highly contagious, so take all precautions.

We miss you and we're thinking about you every day!

Friday, March 20, 2020

School Update

I know that this an "interesting" time to say the least - something like I've never seen before - but I wanted to give you an update on school and band.

On Friday 3/13, the Cook Board of Education decided to close school for two weeks, Monday 3/16 through Friday 3/27. On Tuesday of this week, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp mandated that schools close for two weeks through Tuesday 3/31, which would add two additional days to the Cook Board closures. That means that, if all goes according to schedule, we would return to school on Wednesday, April 1st. I was told before we dismissed that we will still have Spring Break as scheduled Monday through Friday 4/6 to 4/10, and I've not heard anything different as of now. I realize that means that we would go back for three days of school and then take another week out, but that's the current plan. (You can see these dates on the website calendar.) There's also a distinct possibility that we would remain closed for those three days and return after Spring Break, but that's just speculation right now.

Should this school closure continue beyond Spring Break, I feel sure that we'll have to do online classes/lessons. For those of you in 2nd & 4th block band classes, I have no idea right now how this will work for us, but I'm looking at some options, and we'll figure it out together.

I know that many of you have your instrument in the instrument room at the high school, and some of you want to get your horn. Unfortunately we were told when we left the building on Friday 3/13 that no one was allowed under any circumstances to return for two weeks. We are still not 100% sure at this time how long COVID-19 can live on surfaces, so the intention is to let any and all traces of the virus that might be in the building to clear. If/when we're allowed back in and I can let you retrieve your instrument, then I will send out a Remind message.

Lastly, we hope that you and your family are and remain safe. Please try to stay at home as much possible. This virus is extremely contagious, so social distancing combined with frequent hand washing/sanitizing is essential. Apparently young people are at a lower risk for a serious case of the virus (and health officials say that this may not be completely accurate), but if you catch it, you can quickly spread it to others that are higher risk without even realizing it. Please take all precautions!

I miss you all, and I can't wait to get back to having nothing more to worry about than the right key signature! :-)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Spring Trip Update

As I'm sure many of you are already aware, after meeting with parents on Thursday evening March 12th, we have decided that it would be in everyone's best interest not to go forward with this year's Spring Trip. Let me first say that NO ONE WILL LOSE ANY MONEY. The tour company was gracious enough to let me delay the first payment to them until we made a final decision, so no money has left Cook High School. I talked with Student Group Tours this morning, and they were able to cancel everything without a financial penalty. If you have paid for this trip, keep reading for your options.

I know that this is very disappointing for the students, ESPECIALLY the seniors, but we took all factors into consideration before making this serious decision. There are a LOT of unknown variables right now, but we can't wait to see how things play out in the next four weeks. We had to make a decision now about whether or not to go forward. These are the main points that we discussed:


● I don't want anyone to lose any money. If we decided to go forward with the trip, I would have needed to send the first payment to Student Group Tours today. If the COVID-19 outbreak gets worse, and we decide later that we don't want to go, some or all of that money would have been non-refundable. I try to be prudent with band expenses, and for some of us (me included!) every penny is important. I'm not okay losing even a few dollars.
● I don't take the health and safety of my students lightly. Most health officials right now are saying that young people are at less risk, and that, if they do catch it, it would be a very mild case. Even still, I don't want to expose my students to anything that might make them not only sick (even mildly), but also very contagious. Sick students could bring the virus back to parents, grandparents, etc. Students in close quarters like a hotel room or a school bus would almost ensure that if one got it, many or all would have it before we got home.
● There may not be anywhere to go. Shortly before the meeting Disneyland in California announced that it was closing until at least the end of March, and late last night Disney World and Universal Orlando followed suit. While Six Flags has not made an announcement as of now, I'm sure they will be closing for some length of time as well. All major sporting events in the country have been canceled or suspended, including the NBA, MLS, College Basketball's March Madness, the XFL, the PGA and the LPGA. Most importantly Major League Baseball canceled all of Spring Training and announced that the start of the season would be postponed at least two weeks. That means that we might not even have a Braves game to go to on April 18th. The National Arena League season doesn't start for another 3 weeks, so they don't have to make a statement yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a Columbus Lions game for us to play at on April 17th.


After serious discussion, you can see why we came to the decision that we did. There are a large number of unknowns that not even health professionals can agree on right now. There's a chance that COVID-19 might have run it's course by mid-April, and everything is back to normal, but I'm not willing to bet parents' money or students' health on it. Does that mean that we aren't doing anything this Spring? No, but I can't make any sort of future plans right now until I see what happens over the next few days/weeks/months.



WHAT ARE YOUR FINANCIAL OPTIONS?

Again, no money has left Cook High School, so if you paid either cash, check, or on MySchoolBucks.com, you have three options:

#1 - APPLY IT TO THIS YEAR'S UNIFORM FEE OR VISUAL UNIT UNIFORM. A large number of students have not yet paid their $100 uniform fee and some Visual Unit members have not paid for this year's uniform. This trip money can be applied to uniform debt.
#2 - MOVE IT TO STUDENTS' BAND ACCOUNTS. If the uniform fee or VU uniform is paid, I can move this money over to the students' Band Account, and it will be there going forward. Student Band Accounts roll over year-to-year and follow them until they graduate, so it can be used for any band expenses this Spring or next school year.
#3 - REQUEST A REFUND. If students don't have a band debt and you would like this money back, please e-mail a formal request to jnewsome@cook.k12.ga.us. I will fill out the required form, attach a printout of your request, submit it to the school bookkeeper, and she will cut you a check. We have been notified that the school system will be shut down until March 27th, so any refunds will be processed after we return.

Some of you may be able to do more than one of these things, so if you have any questions, don't hesitate to e-mail me. Please notice that I listed my school e-mail above (instead of my marchinghornets.net e-mail address) so that I can have an official record of whatever we discuss and you decide to do.


Again, I am very saddened to have to cancel this trip, I know it would have been a great experience for the students. I am in hopes that this health crisis can be resolved quickly, and that there are some opportunities for us before we reach the end of the school year.

Band Camp and Other Info

Buckle up, because this is going to be long! It's been a month or so since I've published a lengthy informational post, but I hone...