Building HEROES in a Socially Isolated World

I dash from the car to the back porch, picking up my signed and sealed plans waiting patiently in a sealed plastic bag.  No-contact delivery of my architectural plans.  Ordinarily, I’d stick around, say hi, and see how everyone is doing.  My architect is still working, but he’s asked all his employees to work from home.  I need signed and sealed plans to apply for my building permits. I left the house, but I’m still isolated.  I go from my house to the car, the back porch of his office, and back again.  I do all of this without seeing or talking to anyone. I’m not panic shopping. I’m not panicking, but I certainly can’t afford to be sick right now. 


I’ve worked for thirteen years to get to where I am today.  I bought land. I have a building.  With a lot of love, it’ll be the school of my dreams.  Before COVID-19 made its impact, I was thriving.  Applications and registrations were rolling in, and I finally had land of my own.  Now, applications are dwindling.  I’ve figured out how to administer admissions testing online, but people are understandably preoccupied. Parents are concerned about their child’s education right now.  September feels like its light years away. 


Now, I’m anxiously watching the news.  I’m watching as states mandate closures of various businesses.  I’m thankful that New Jersey has closed only schools, personal services, and restaurants.  Pennsylvania is only permitting life-sustaining businesses to remain open; that does not include construction.  I feel like I’m holding my breath, crossing my fingers, and hoping that strong will and determination will be enough to get me through. 


If New Jersey puts an end to construction, I don’t know what I’ll do. I try to sound optimistic as parents ask me how I am – how construction is going – how HEROES is doing.  Many thoughtful parents have asked me if they can do anything to lend a hand.  I wish I had an answer, but no one can make any guarantees right now.  We just don’t know.


I settled on a contractor.  My priorities have shifted since I first started taking bids on the project.  I opt for the contractor that I think is most capable of working through crisis – the one that seems calm and level-headed.  I want to ask him how he plans to get through these next few months.  What are the prospects of finishing this project on time?  But, he doesn’t know.  He can’t know.  Things are changing every hour.  Not even every day.  What’s open today – what’s permitted today – – may not be okay tomorrow.  It might not even be allowed tonight.  We just don’t know. 


My dear dead deer friends are still sitting by my sign.  I don’t think picking up dead deer is a priority for the county right now.  They might be there for quite a while.  Some have suggested shoving him away with the backhoe or tying a noose around their necks to drag them away.  Drag them away to where?  I don’t exactly want a deer graveyard in the back of my property. 


I’ll keep moving forward.  I try to keep my hopes high, but I also try to plan for the unexpected – for the unknown.  If we absolutely must, I know we can move HEROES a little later than we planned.  I can rally parents, students, and friends together to pack and move the school.  Most importantly, I must have faith.  I’m not a religious person, but right now I must have faith. 


As I sit on Ms. Voit’s front porch, we have socially isolated coffee. I sit on the porch, and she sits more than 6 feet away behind the screen door.  We are used to working side-by-side every day.  One of us must go to the grocery store.  One of us must pick up the plans.  One of us must go out in the world.  Not everyone can completely isolate for weeks on end.  So, we sit and have our socially isolated coffee.  She asks me if I’m okay.  I’m just tired.  She asks what my plans are for today.  My plans don’t change much these days.  I sit in front of a computer.  I write curriculum.  I answer e-mails.   I make phone calls.  Rinse and repeat.


On Saturday, I sit anxiously in front of my computer waiting for our governor to make a “big announcement.”  He’s waiting for the president to speak.  I wait, and I wait.  I just want to know what businesses he’s closing.  I know that he’s going to close more businesses.  Please let construction continue.  I wonder if I’m selfish.  I don’t want contractors to have to leave their houses, but they don’t need more than one or two guys on the site at a given time.  They can socially distance themselves; I hope.  We need to get this virus under control, but I also need to be able to survive when we emerge from this crisis.  The comment feed is filled with demands at both extremes.  Shut everything down.  Leave people to make their own decisions.  Everyone wants something different. 


He shuts down more retail businesses.  He lists businesses that can stay open.  What about construction? He finishes the list of retail that has been deemed essential and can remain open.  As almost an afterthought, he adds “construction.”  Construction can go on!  I feel a little selfish.  I don’t want contractors to put themselves at risk, but I need this construction.  I’ve worked for thirteen years to get to where I am today.  Life was great.  HEROES was great.  Applications and registrations were rolling in before COVID-19 turned our lives upside down.  I finally own land.  I can build my dream, but only if construction can continue.  For now, it can.  I know that can change, but I have to hold onto the little things. 

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